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Iran warns security in international waters cannot be guaranteed

Focus on Adrian Darya 1 tanker as it sails eastward

Iran's exports sink, floating storage leaps

Tehran — Iran's leaders have once again warned that maritime security will remain at risk if its oil exports continue to be compromised as the US warns countries of assisting the Iranian tanker Adrian Darya 1 as its sails in the Mediterranean after having been released by the Gibraltar authorities.

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"The world's powers know that in the case of full sanctions of Iran's oil and if its oil exports is brought down to zero, international waterways cannot have that security they used to have in the past," President Hassan Rouhani was quoted as saying Wednesday by the official news agency IRNA at a cabinet meeting with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

"Therefore, unilateral pressure against Iran cannot be in their interest and will not guarantee their security," he added.

These statements come as Iran-US tensions continue to spiral, exacerbated by the release of an Iranian tanker by the Gibraltar government last week.

The Adrian Darya, formerly known as Grace 1, was released by Gibraltar, more than a month after it had been seizedon suspicion of carry oil to Syria. A US request to seize the tanker was rejected by Gibraltar.

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has threatened sanctions on any country that helps this ship.

Iran has repeatedly issued threats to close or disrupt traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, should the US sanctions block its oil shipments. The Strait of Hormuz is a critical chokepoint through which 30% of the world's seaborne oil transits.

TANKER WATCH

All eyes are on the tanker as it makes its way eastward a few days after its departure from Gibraltar.

The VLCC, which is carrying 2.1 million barrels of Iranian crude, left the UK territory Sunday and is on its way to Kalamata in Greece, according to data from S&P Global Platts trade flow software cFlow.

Kalamata has no oil import facility and analysts do not expect this tanker to discharge any oil in Greece due to US sanctions.

Media reports have quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis as saying Greece was "not willing to facilitate the course of this ship to Syria."

Since late Tuesday, the tanker's satellite tracking systems have not been broadcasting a signal.

Shipping and trading sources said they expect the Adrian Darya 1 to offload the crude onto a smaller tanker.

"This is possibly the most-watched tanker out there right now," a Greek shipping source said. "The Iranians will be hoping to cloak a ship-to-ship transfer, but it is not going to easy with so many eyes on it," a source said.

It is very common for Iran and also other producers to use ship-to-ship transfer to sell its oil at ports with these facilities.

Ship operators in the Middle East have been on high alert and insurance rates have soared since tanker attacks in May and June. The US has blamed Iran for the attacks, although Iran denies responsibility.

The US has announced a maritime security partnership, aimed at improving security in the straits of Hormuz and Bab al-Mandeb. The UK, Bahrain and Australia have publicly joined that partnership.

The UK-flagged Stena Impero continues to be detained in Iran after the country's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the tanker for violating maritime rules and risking possible collision with other vessels.

Sweden's Stena Bulk, which owns the Stena Impero tanker seized by Iran, has said its CEO had a "constructive dialogue" in a meeting with Iran's foreign minister, as it seeks the release of the ship.

EXPORTS SINK; FLOATING BARRELS SURGE

Iranian oil exports have plunged in the past few months due to US sanctions crippling the country's oil export revenues.

Crude and condensate shipments out of Iran were averaging just over 450,000 b/d in July, preliminary data from cFlow showed.

This compares with 549,730 b/d and 874,666 b/d in June and May, respectively.

The OPEC member has had to build a flotilla of oil tankers to cope with the pressure of US sanctions.

Provisional estimates show that the country's floating storage inventories have bulged to around 40 million barrels from around 20 million in May.

Some industry sources, however, expected Iranian oil loadings to be slightly higher as a number of Iran's state-owned oil tankers have stopped broadcasting their geographical positions, making it tough to ascertain an accurate figure for the country's seaborne crude exports.

On the other hand, the State Department's special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, said Tuesday US sanctions had caused Iranian crude exports to fall to about 100,000 b/d in July.

-- Eklavya Gupte, eklavya.gupte@spglobal.com

-- Aresu Eqbali, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Robert Perkins, robert.perkins@spglobal.com