India’s oil imports from Iran slump 60 pct in Feb y/y

China seeking to skirt US sanctions will use oil tankers from Iran for its purchases of that country's crude

LONDON - Iran will respond firmly to any Israeli naval action against its oil shipments, Iran's defense minister said on Wednesday, in comments that came a week after Israel's prime minister said its navy could act against Iranian oil "smuggling" to evade U.S. sanctions.

The defense minister also noted that Israeli actions would be seen as "piracy" if the navy acted against Iran, according to the IRNA news agency.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran's armed forces are definitely capable of defending the country's shipping routes in case of any threat", he asserted.

All eight are in bilateral talks about the waivers, sources said.

For example, last year, one of Iran's tankers sank near China after a collision with another vessel.

A source at Panama's flag registry said the cancellation, "affects approximately 60 Panama registered ships that are related to Iranian and Syrian owners".

The owners of the vessels, who were listed in the British Virgin Islands, could not be contacted.

Iranian officials, however, are trying to appear positive and upbeat regarding the sanctions. India was granted a waiver from Iran oil sanctions in November and has been seeking to extend it until May.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has stressed Washington's commitment to swiftly bring Iranian crude oil exports to zero, saying Tehran's role in the energy market has been diminishing due to US pressure.

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It is believed that more than 15 Iranian tankers are coming up to 20 years old. However, the age of the fleet and the dilapidated state of the tankers are making the challenge even more hard.

Both sources said they were briefed by the Trump administration on the matter but were not authorized to speak publicly about it and asked for anonymity.

Vietnamese officials did not respond to requests for comment.

U.S. Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, described Iran's tanker sector as a "floating liability" in November.

Dealing with Iran's flag registry raises compliance issues for counterparties as there is a risk they might interact with individuals or entities blacklisted under USA sanctions.

Washington may also deny waivers to some countries that have not bought Iranian crude recently, the sources said.

"Countries, ports, and canal operators, and private firms should know they will be likely responsible for the cost of an accident involving a self-insured Iranian tanker", he added.

"The biggest problem for insurers these days is finding a bank willing to handle a payment for goods or services where the beneficiary is designated by the U.S.", said Salthouse, chairman of the International Group's sanctions sub-committee.

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