Iran lands first oil in Europe since 2012

The Monte Toledo oil tanker covered the uneventful voyage from Iran to Europe with a haul of one million barrels of crude in just 17 days, but its journey has been four years in the making.

Iran lands first oil in Europe since 2012

On Sunday, the tanker became the first to deliver Iranian crude into Europe since mid-2012, when Brussels imposed an oil embargo in an attempt to force the Middle Eastern nation to negotiate the end of its nuclear programme.

The ban was lifted in January as part of a broader deal that ended a decade of sanctions.

The 275-metre tanker started offloading its cargo into a refinery owned by Espanola de Petroleos, near Algeciras, a few miles from Gibraltar.

By midday, the vessel had already pumped to shore about a fifth of its cargo.

In southern Spain, the tanker’s arrival was met with little fanfare.

It was a quiet Sunday at the refinery, and for the workers, the Monte Toledo is just one of the eight or so vessels they expect to receive this month.

By the time the refinery has taken in all the Iranian crude, another tanker from Algeria will be already waiting. Nonetheless, there’s a wider significance.

As the Monte Toledo started to pump to shore through two 21-inch floating hoses connected to a giant buoy and a 1.8km submarine pipeline, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani declared in Tehran that more oil exports “will be added soon.”

Ali Tayebnia, the country’s minister of economy and finance, said that Iran’s oil exports will “soon return” to two million barrels a day.

Around Europe, other tankers with Iranian oil are close behind the Monte Toledo.

In February, 29 vessels loaded crude from Iran.

Of those, three are heading toward Europe — the Eurohope tanker is sailing to Constanta, an oil port in Romania, and the Atlantas is on its way to France.

Another one, the Distya Akula, is anchored at the mouth of the Suez Canal, and is likely to head into a Mediterranean port.

The Monte Toledo and its companions are the vanguard in the return of Iran into the European oil market.

Although the increase falls short of the 500,000 barrels a day that Tehran had promised, there are signs that exports into Europe will pick up.

Banking restraints, however, mean some customers are finding it hard to transfer payments for Iranian crude and the National Iranian Oil has offered to swap crude for gasoline to get deals done.

Iran will want to win back customers in Europe, where Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and other rival suppliers stepped in after the embargo was imposed.

Tehran also faces a rival unknown four years ago: The US has started exporting crude into refineries in the Mediterranean.

Before the embargo Europe imported on average about 400,000 barrels a day of oil from Iran, according to the IEA.

If all goes as Tehran has planned, it will boost its production back to the 3.6m barrels a day it pumped in 2011.

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