May 5, 2011 | Quote

Iran Gasoline Imports at Nearly 50,000 bpd-Sources

DUBAI, May 5 (Reuters) – Iran imported nearly 50,000 barrels per day (bpd) of gasoline in March and in April, industry sources told Reuters, much of it from Asia, as the Islamic Republic kept up its practice of dodging Western sanctions.

Five vessels carrying a total of 1.505 million barrels of gasoline were shipped from Asia in March, a senior trading source said. In total, imports for the month were more than 48,500 bpd.

In April, Iran bought 49,400 bpd, according to shipping documents that showed a further five cargoes carrying a total of 1.482 million barrels. Three of them involved ship-to-ship transfers in the Strait of Hormuz.

“When we talk about Iranian imports, around five cargoes per month is the number we keep hearing,” one Gulf-based trader said. “I guess the main question is ‘where is it coming from?’.”

Until U.S.-led sanctions scared off many of Iran’s regular suppliers, it was importing some 13-15 cargoes of gasoline.

Now, traders say, it depends for supplies on various friendly powers, such as China, which has avoided siding too closely with the West in its dispute over Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Iran insists its nuclear activities are for purely peaceful purposes.

China signed up to the United Nations sanctions when they took full effect in mid-2010, but refused to support measures that targeted Iran’s oil and gas sector.

Other nations that could still be willing to do business with Iran include Venezuela and Russia. Russia in February opposed imposing more sanctions on Iran.

Traders said they have received gasoline inquiries from little-known, smaller trading companies based in the United Arab Emirates and in the Gulf with specifications matching Iran’s gasoline requirements.

“We hear some of those cargoes have ended up in Bandar Abbas,” another trader said. “There is no way to control this flow.”

The Islamic Republic has boosted domestic output and curbed domestic demand by reducing subsidies and raising pump prices, but the trade patterns imply it is not yet self-sufficient, even though it has made some attempts to export refined products.

In April, it struck a deal to sell gasoline to Iraq, but traders had no appetite for the fuel because of its low octane rating of 87 RON, below the standard of 95 RON in European countries.