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US sanctions VLCC, Omani oil broker in latest sign of trouble for Iran nuclear talks

Highlights

Treasury sanctions VLCC Oman Pride after loading oil in Iran

US-Iran stalemate could cut 1.5 mil b/d from outlook: Platts Analytics

The US Treasury Department leveled new sanctions Aug. 13 against an Omani oil trader and a Liberian-flagged crude oil tanker accused of facilitating Iranian oil exports, the latest sign of friction around the stalled US-Iran nuclear talks.

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Treasury said Omani national Mahmood Rashid Amur Al Habsi tampered with ships' automatic identification systems, forged shipping documents and paid bribes to circumvent US sanctions against Iran's oil and shipping sectors. It said he took the actions to obscure the involvement of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force in the oil sales and shipments.

Treasury also sanctioned the VLCC Oman Pride. Kpler data shows the vessel loaded oil from Iran three times in 2020: in July, August and October. Ship-tracking software showed it offshore Oman on Aug. 13.

The action also lists Al Habsi's companies, including Oman-based Nimr International LLC and Orbit Petrochemicals Trading, Dubai-based Bravery Maritime and Romania-based Nimr International SRL.

The Treasury designation blocks any assets the individuals and companies had in US-linked banks and bans US persons from dealing with them.

Talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and removing US sanctions on Iran's energy sector have stalled since Iran's presidential election of hardliner Ebrahim Raisi. A seventh round was expected to start after his Aug. 5 inauguration but has not been announced.

Uncertainty over the nuclear talks creates a real possibility that 1.5 million b/d of expected Iranian supply growth through August 2022 will not hit the market, said Paul Sheldon, chief geopolitical adviser for S&P Global Platts Analytics.

Iran produced 2.52 million b/d in July, its highest since April 2019, according to the S&P Global Platts OPEC survey.

Many Western powers have blamed Iran for a couple of maritime security incidents near the Gulf of Oman, but Iran has denied involvement.

The US State Department said in mid-July it remains willing to resume talks with Iran aimed at reviving the nuclear deal and removing oil and other sanctions.

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