By Hamideh Taati
Turkey has closed its ports to Iranian oil, fully complying with U.S. sanctions against its main supplier, despite Ankara publicly criticizing the United States’ move to end import waivers and warning of a struggle to tap alternative producers, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
The U.S. decision to fully re-impose sanctions on Iranian oil ended a six-month reprieve for Turkey and seven other big importers as Washington steps up attempts to isolate the Iranian regime and choke off its oil revenues.
Turkey’s largest oil refiner Tupras had pressed Washington for an extension of the import waiver before the May 1 expiration, according to a person familiar with the talks, adding that when it was not granted the company made it clear it would halt all imports from Iran.
According to Refinitiv tracking data, no tankers loaded in Iran have arrived at Turkish ports so far in this month.
Four days after the waiver ended, a tanker carrying 130,000 tons of Iranian crude was midway across the Mediterranean Sea to Turkey when it changed course and turned off its tracker, Refinitiv oil analyst Ehsan ul-Haq said. Analysts, citing satellite imagery, said it likely unloaded instead at the Syrian port of Banias.
The data shows that Turkey began trimming its Iranian imports as early as March. Analysts said it has replaced the oil from its neighbor with oil from Iraq, Russia and Kazakhstan, according to the Reuters report.
Last week, Reuters reported that Iranian crude oil exports have fallen to 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) or lower this month, with the bulk heading to Asia, according to tanker data and industry sources.
Prior to May 2018, when the U.S. pulled out of the Iran nuclear accord, Turkey imported an average of 912,000 tons of oil a month from Iran, or 47% of its total imports.
In the four months since November 2018, when the U.S. imposed sanctions and granted the limited waivers, Turkey imported an average of 209,000 tons of Iranian oil, or 12% of its total imports, according to Reuters calculations based on regulatory data.