(Bloomberg) -- Iran’s oil exports fell sharply in the first two weeks of June, offering an early signal that U.S. President Donald Trump’s re-imposition of sanctions may be discouraging some buyers.
Outflows of crude oil and condensate, a light form of oil extracted from gas fields, plunged by 16 percent to 2.114 million barrels a day during the first two weeks of June, compared with the same period in May. It’s the biggest like-for-like drop since December 2016, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.
It’s too soon to draw definitive conclusions from the data, especially given the short timespan covered. However, a prolonged decline in exports would be concerning for Iran’s government given its dependence on revenues from crude sales. Such a slump would also offer encouragement to Trump.
Historically, tanker tracking compiled by Bloomberg has shown shipments tend to dip in the first half of each month, before recovering. Even so, the flows in the 14 days of June would still be the weakest for the period in 12 months. Supertankers haul about 2 million barrels each, meaning that the timing of a single loading could affect daily flows by 143,000 barrels over a two-week period.
Shipments heading toward European Union countries fell by a third, as buyers in Spain, Greece and Italy all loaded smaller volumes in June than during the corresponding period in May. Turkey, which has been buying almost 200,000 barrels a day of Iranian crude on average this year, has lifted none so far in June.
Deliveries to key Asian buyers India and Japan were both up compared with the previous month, while shipments to China were unchanged. In contrast, the volume of crude and condensate heading toward South Korea, which has been taking an average of 205,000 barrels a day from the Persian Gulf nation, were down sharply.
There were also tentative signs that private ship owners may be starting to shy away from the Middle East country, with 71 percent of June’s shipments being carried on vessels owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company, or the governments of India and Libya. That’s up from a share of 52 percent for the whole of May. There has been uncertainty about insuring ships hauling Iranian crude.
One bright spot for Iran is its first delivery of crude to Chile in at least 16 years, a sign that the Persian Gulf country may be having some success in its quest to find some new markets for its oil. The Monte Toledo, a Suezmax-class tanker able to transport 1 million barrels, is due to reach the Pacific Coast port of San Vicente on July 12, after loading at Kharg Island, Iran’s main export terminal, earlier this month.
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