Oil companies and shipping getting ready for historic Iran deal

The US will gradually ease the economic sanctions against Iran. The time frame and the scope of the out-phasing will be negotiated in the months to come, and the finalized agreement will contain far-reaching perspectives for oil companies and shipping.

Photo: Stoc Tankers

The economic sanctions against Iran will be eased and gradually out-phased when last week's political framework agreement concerning the nuclear program is negotiated and finalized in details during the months the come, ahead of the deadline in late June. An agreement that contains significant perspectives for oil companies as well as shipping, according to analysts.

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Following several days of uncertainty about how expediently the economic sanctions will be eased, and with very sparse information concerning the sanctions in the political agreement that is estimated to have particularly significant consequences for the developments in the global tanker market, a spokesman for the White House made the following comment:

"It has never been our position that all of the sanctions against Iran should be removed from day one," said Obama's spokesman Josh Earnest at a press conference on Monday.

The political framework agreement contains no points related to the time frame of the out-phasing nor about the scope of these, as these matters will only start to be negotiated and determined now.

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Iranian negotiators said, following agreement on the political deal in Lausanne, Switzerland, that the sanctions would would be lifted in the wake of signing the agreement. But the White House is now stressing that it wants, at first, to see whether Iran will in fact comply with the agreement, and that the country will be more willing to honor the agreement once the regime realizes that the sanctions could in fact be re-introduced.

New life in the oil and gas industry

According to the Financial Times, Tehran is desperate to breathe new life into its oil and gas industry, and to begin as quickly as possible to fertilize the ground as well as attract foreign investments and new contracts with western companies. French Total and Italy's Eni will likely be the first to sign contracts after companies such as Shell, Spain's Repsol and Norwegian Statoil withdrew, like Total, in 2010.

The economic sanctions have since 2011 reduced Iran's crude oil production from 3.6 million barrels per day to now 2.8 million barrels. Numerous observers believe that Iran will be able to increase its oil production fairly quickly, over a few months. Some 30 million barrels of crude oil are estimated to be stockpiled on land and on tankers, and these volumes could enter the market quickly.

Photo: Vahid Salemi/AP/POLFOTO
Photo: Vahid Salemi/AP/POLFOTO

Iran holds the world's fourth-largest oil reserves and the second-largest gas reserves. The Financial Times reports that 40 percent of the country's 187 existing fields have yet to be developed.

EU puts 40 Iranian carriers on sanctions list

For shipping and the tanker market, the out-phasing of the sanctions is expected to have a notable positive impact, even though the country's own fleet will likely dominate a significant part of the crude oil transports.

Major analysts houses such as Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank in New York, which are closely watching share price developments at the largest tanker companies, project that the already very favorable rates - currently at the highest quarterly level in five years - will increase considerably. Meanwhile, the rising oil volumes and a continuing low oil price will result in growing interest in using large oil tankers as floating storages, benefiting charterers as well as owners.

The oil ministry in Tehran informed recently that the country will be able to increase its oil export by a million barrels per day in a few months once the sanctions are lifted.

Media: How Iranian oil companies elude sanctions

"A ramp-up of that magnitude would absorb another 20-30 VLCCs or up to 3-5 percent of the global VLCC fleet; it could drive the crude tanker market to another 5-year high, by our calculations, and twice as high as the levels we have seen the last couple of weeks," said Morgan Stanley oil analyst Fotis Giannakoulis in a brief.

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A moderate increase in the VLCC rates, of 20-30 percent, would likely result in a doubling of earnings at companies such as Euronav, Nordic American Tanker, Teekay Tankers and Tsakos Energy Navigation in terms of Morgan Stanley's estimates for the four tanker carriers, according to the brief.

Analysts recently estimated to news agency Reuters that Iran would be able to increase its oil production by 500,000 barrels per day within a 3-6 month period, and by another 700,000 barrels per day within one year's time.

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