One in six VLCCs has carried Iranian or Venezuelan oil over the past two years

Of the 853 VLCCs currently afloat, 141 have been involved in Iranian and/or Venezuelan oil trades during the past two years, according to data from TankerTrackers.com

Many ageing tankers, which from March 2020 through until only recently saw limited trading opportunities in the “white” sector, had moved into sanctioned Iranian and/or Venezuelan trade during the pandemic.

Analysis from tanker brokers Gibson in May suggested up to 10% of VLCCs and 6% of the suezmax sector were involved in activity that contravened sanctions imposed by the USA.

Global shipbroker Braemar ACM pointed out recently that when the expected easing of US sanctions on Iran’s oil industry comes about, probably within a year, then the carriage of Iranian crude will once again be largely covered by NITC tankers. That would see employment for the illicit fleet dry up, although some of these units could switch to carrying Venezuelan oil. However Braemar ACM anticipated little upside to Venezuelan crude production over the short-term.

The inevitable consequence of this was likely to be a busier time for the Asian subcontinent shipbreaking beaches. “The upshot is that, considering the elderly age of the ‘illicit’ fleet, the majority of units should be scrapped within one year of US sanctions being eased,” Braemar ACM said this month.

“However, we project minimal upside to rates coming from such scrapping. As with this year, the tankers undertaking illicit voyages are already removed from the general hire pool”, Braemar ACM concluded.