China reports first official Iranian oil imports since December 2020

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – China reported the first imports of Iranian crude oil in a year despite ongoing U.S. government sanctions, customs data showed on Thursday.

China imported 260,312 tons of Iranian crude oil in December, according to data from China’s General Administration of Customs, which last recorded Iranian oil inflows in December 2020 at 520,000 tons.

It was not immediately clear which company had brought in the last shipment, which is equal to the amount of oil that would fit in a Very Large Crude Oil Carrier (VLCC), and at which terminal it had been unloaded.

Unofficially, Chinese imports of Iranian oil held steady at more than 500,000 barrels a day on average between August and October, with buyers believing that getting cheap crude outweighed the risks of circumventing US sanctions, Reuters reported in November.

To avoid sanctions, Iranian crude was exported to China marked as oil from Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia, eliminating supplies from Brazil and West Africa, traders said.

Imports from Iran accounted for about 6% of China’s crude oil imports, according to shipping data and traders’ estimates.

(Reporting by Chen Aizhu and Muyu Xu; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Christian Schmollinger)

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