Tehran Says Ships Targeted by U.S. Were Holding Iranian Fuel

Tehran Says Ships Targeted by U.S. Were Holding Iranian Fuel...
finance.yahoo.com 17/08/2020 News

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(Bloomberg) --
Four tankers whose cargoes were seized by the U.S. over the past month were heading to Venezuela with gasoline loaded in Iran, according to Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh.
His comments are the first acknowledgment by Tehran that the vessels were transporting shipments from the Islamic Republic when the U.S. confiscated them. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday it was a “lie” that the tankers were Iranian, though he didn’t comment on what they held.
James Malloy, commander of the U.S. Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain, said on Monday that Washington used contracted vessels to seize the Iranian fuel and transfer it to other ships. Two of the transfers took place in the Gulf of Oman, and the other two occurred off the coast of Mozambique, he said on a call with reporters.
The seizure was an unprecedented step by Washington, which said the ships contained 1.1 million barrels of gasoline, and it could destabilize global oil markets if Iran retaliates. The U.S. Navy is in contact with commercial shipping amid perceived Iranian threats, Malloy said.
Iran has the means to disrupt the flow of international tankers transiting the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most critical choke point for oil shipments. However, the impact that such interference might have on oil prices would probably be limited, given that pandemic-driven lockdowns have battered demand for energy. Brent crude gained 0.4% to $45.19 a barrel by 3:28 p.m. in London on Monday, paring its loss this year to 32%.
“The cargoes were loaded from Iran, but neither the ships nor the cargoes belonged to Iran, and the U.S. declared victory for itself in the middle of this,” Zanganeh said earlier on Monday at a briefing in Tehran. “The fuel was Iranian, but it had been sold to Venezuela and its payment had been cleared.”
Malloy drew a sharp distinction between what he described as non-military seizures ordered by the U.S. and Iran’s forcible boarding of a smaller tanker, the Liberian-flagged Wila, on Aug. 12 in the Gulf of Oman.
Molloy said Iranian personnel beat up crew members of the Wila and stole equipment. “We don’t know when Iran might commit a provocation, whether they’re going to do what they did last week, where they signaled their anger by seizing a vessel.”
Venezuela’s Woes
While Iran regularly intercepts ships it alleges have entered its waters or are illegally smuggling fuel, last week’s boarding evoked memories of a spate of attacks on vessels in 2019 that even saw Britain and Iran engage in tit-for-tat seizures.
Two of the four Venezuela-bound ships are registered to the same address in Piraeus, Greece as the Wila, according to a United Nations database. All four are managed by the owner of the Wila or its offshoots, according to maritime intelligence company Lloyd’s List.
Iran has been exporting gasoline to Venezuela in defiance of U.S. sanctions that are intended to choke off both nations’ oil revenue. Venezuela has the world’s largest crude reserves, but in recent years production has plummeted and its refineries have fallen into disrepair because of mismanagement by President Nicolas Maduro’s government and U.S. sanctions.
The Justice Department said the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the U.S. designates as a terrorist organization, was behind the shipments.
(Updates with U.S. admiral’s comments from third paragraph; updates oil price in fifth.)
---(Bloomberg) -- Four tankers whose cargoes were seized by the U.S. over the past month were heading to Venezuela with gasoline loaded in Iran, according to Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh.His comments are the first acknowledgment by Tehran that the vessels were transporting shipments from the ---
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