Iran shipping 411,000 mt LPG in March, Vitol taking a cargo to Taiwan

Iran is shipping about 411,000 mt of LPG in March, taking its first-quarter total to 1.117 million mt, indicating that the Middle Eastern producer has returned to normal export volumes with the removal of international sanctions in mid-January, shipping sources said Wednesday.

The bulk of the March-loading cargoes are again destined for China, with some going to Taiwan, Singapore/Indonesian waters and Egypt, according to sources and cFlow, Platts trade flow software.

Among the lifters is European trading firm Vitol, which sailed off with a 44,000-mt cargo from Bandar Imam Petrochemical Co., or BIPC, aboard the Very Large Gas Carrier Gas Courage, on March 20.

The vessel is currently in the Strait of Malacca and is scheduled to reach Mailiao in Taiwan on April 7, according to Platts cFlow. Traders had said Vitol could be delivering the mixed propane/butane cargo to Formosa Petrochemical Corp. under a spot transaction done via direct negotiations.

Formosa last month issued a tender seeking a 22,000-mt propane lot for early March delivery. The tender stipulated that Iran-origin cargo would be allowed – the first time the company, or any Taiwanese importer, had permitted LPG of Iranian origin since nuclear-linked sanctions were imposed on Iran around mid-2012 – but the final award was a parcel that was not of Iran origin, sources said.

Formosa is raising its usage of LPG as petrochemical feedstock to around 10% from next month, versus 5% in March, to take advantage of the deepening discount between LPG and naphtha, a source had said.

So far, one 44,000-mt cargo is scheduled to load from Iran in April aboard the VLGC EverRich 10, which is currently at Assaluyeh port. The trading firm Trilience is loading the cargo from Iranian Gas Commercial Co., or IGCC, which is likely to head for southern China as it had done in past months.

In February, Iranian exporters shipped 440,000 mt of LPG, more than initial estimates of 308,000 mt, and also up from 266,000 mt in January, shipping sources said.

Iran exported almost 4 million mt LPG in 2015, mainly to China, though some cargoes also went to Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan and India, shipping sources said.

Last year’s shipments were made possible despite sanctions, as Iranian and Chinese traders have access to vessels and insurance covered by Iran’s Kish P&I Club and Qeshm International Trust Alliance P&I Club, which were homegrown following the sanctions.

CARGOES FROM MULTIPLE IRAN EXPORTERS

The March-loading shipments include a 44,000-mt cargo from IGCC lifted by Gasix Oil and Gas Trading Co. aboard the Gas Taurus. The vessel, which departed from Assaluyeh on March 5, is now at the Fujian Regas Terminal in southern China awaiting departure, according to cFlow.

Gasix is loading a similar cargo from Petrochemical Commercial Co., or PCC, aboard the Ming Zhu, which is currently off the east coast of Malaysia and due to reach Guangdong in the next few days, cFlow shows.

Siam Gas is loading a National Iranian Oil Co. cargo from Assaluyeh aboard the Ming Long, which is currently in Khor Fakkan, cFlow shows. It is expected to head to Hukou in southern China.

Kuwait-based Arab Maritime Petroleum Transport Co., or AMPTC, has co-loaded around March 11-14, a 29,000-mt lot from Bandar Imam Khomeini port and a 15,000-mt parcel from Assaluyeh, both from PCC, aboard the Gas Beauty. The vessel is currently in the Suez Northbound Anchorage, according to cFlow.

China’s Zhenrong is taking a 44,000-mt cargo from Pars Petrochemical Co. aboard the Gas Beryl, which is due to arrive in Yantian, southern China, around April 6. Petro Plus is taking a Kharg Petrochemical Co. cargo aboard the Gas Magic, which is currently in the Nipah ship-to-ship zone off Singapore, cFlow shows.

Jovo Energy, which has a term contract with NIOC, is taking a cargo aboard the Sea Dragon, and is now off the east coast of Malaysia due for arrival in Guangdong on April 4. The Chinese trader has loaded a similar cargo and left Iran’s Larak island March 27 due for arrival in Guangdong around April 14.

Latest data from China’s General Administration of Customs showed the country imported 1.071 million mt of LPG in February, up 12% month on month and 53% year on year.

The UAE kept the top spot in February, exporting to China 369,428 mt, followed by the US at 353,639 mt and Qatar at 151,091 mt.

China’s LPG imports from the UAE have jumped over the past two years and sources said the figures likely included volumes from Iran, as some Chinese buyers have sealed term contracts with Iranian firms. But no Iranian cargoes were recorded in the data.

Source: Platts