Iran is using old tankers, saved from the scrapyard by foreign middlemen, to ship out oil to China in ways that avoid Western sanctions, say officials involved with sanctions who showed Reuters corroborating documents.
The officials, from states involved in imposing sanctions to pressure Iran to curb its nuclear program, said the tankers – worth little more than scrap value – were a new way for Iran to keep its oil exports flowing by exploiting the legal limitations on Western powers’ ability to make sanctions stick worldwide.
Officials showed Reuters shipping documents to support their allegation that eight ships, each of which can carry close to a day’s worth of Iran’s pre-sanctions exports, have loaded Iranian oil at sea.
“The tankers have been used for Iranian crude,” one official said.
“They are part of Iran’s sanctions-busting strategy.” Dimitris Cambis, the Greek businessman who last year bought the ships – eight very large crude carriers, or VLCCs – to carry Middle East crude to Asia, flatly denied doing any business with Tehran or running clandestine shipments of its oil to China.
Cambis said he had not been involved in shipping before but had bought the tankers as part of a new venture he runs from the United Arab Emirates.
He denied trading with Iran – though he has contacts there from his previous work in the oil industry.