Iran oil tanker forced to seek repairs in Saudi port
TEHRAN: OPEC is determined to avoid a global “energy crisis” as some of its members are facing international sanctions and others struggling with unrest, the cartel’s secretary-general said in Tehran yesterday.
“As an organization, we will remain focused on our goal of avoiding an energy crisis that may affect the global economy,” Mohammed Barkindo said on the sidelines of an oil and gas exhibition.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will pursue this policy “despite current troubles in several of its member countries,” he said.
His comments came as the end of US sanction waivers for purchases of oil from key OPEC member Iran was due to kick in yesterday.
Venezuela, another cartel member, is also facing sweeping US sanctions and in the throes of political troubles while fighting rages between rival forces for control Tripoli, capital of oil-rich Libya.
Barkindo did not name any country but said some OPEC producers were “currently under unilateral sanctions”-a reference to Iran and Venezuela. Another country “is also going through transitional challenges with all its potential consequences,” Barkindo said, also apparently about Venezuela where opposition leader Juan Guaido is trying to rally demonstrators against President Nicolas Maduro.
Another cartel member he said, alluding to Libya, “is fighting day in and day out to avoid an all-out war”. OPEC is “committed to stay united” and “not slip back into the chaos” it has faced in recent years, Barkindo said.
Iran, as a founding member of the organization, has regularly slammed some of the cartel’s members for going along with Washington’s policies against Iran and lacking solidarity.
On Wednesday, Iran’s oil minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh accused OPEC members he did not name of sowing “division” and threatening the cartel’s “disintegration”.
These countries-he said referring to Iraq and oil kingpin Saudi Arabia — were “exaggerating” their production capacity to reassure markets after the US lifted sanction waivers for buyers of Iranian crude. The end of the exemptions announced on April 22 have sparked fears of supply shortages and pushed prices up.
Meanwhile, an Iranian tanker was forced to seek repairs at a Saudi port after suffering “engine failure and loss of control”, the Iranian oil ministry’s SHANA news agency reported yesterday.
The rare docking in Iran’s regional arch-foe, came as Washington was poised to end all remaining exemptions to crippling sanctions on Iranian oil exports, a move strongly supported by the kingdom.
SHANA said that the incident began on Tuesday morning when the tanker issued a distress call.
“One of the National Iranian Tanker Company’s tankers, moving through the Red Sea towards the Suez Canal, failed to continue its path due to water leaking into its engine room,” it reported. “With the coordination of the relevant officials, the ship was guided to Jeddah as the nearest safe port to fix the problem and take the necessary measures.”
SHANA identifed the tanker as the Happiness 1, with a crew of 26 — 24 Iranians and two Bangladeshis. The crew are safe and sound, it said.
SHANA quoted the tanker company as denying that the incident had caused any environmental damage. It did not specify whether the ship had continued on its way by Thursday or remained in port in Jeddah. Yesterday was the date set by Washington for the end of all waivers it granted from its renewed sanctions on Iranian oil exports. All Iranian exports, including to key remaining customers China, India and Turkey, are now subject to the sanctions imposed in November.
Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia have intensified in recent years.
The region rivals have had no diplomatic relations since Riyadh broke off ties in 2016 after protesters angry at its execution of a top Shiite cleric torched its diplomatic missions in Iran.
In January 2018, another Iranian tanker, the Sanchi, struck the Chinese freighter CF Crystal off the coast of Shanghai and went down in a ball of flames, seemingly killing its entire crew of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis and causing a huge oil spill. – AFP