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Iran’s oil tanker fleet being squeezed as sanctions bite



Iran’s oil tanker fleet being squeezed as sanctions bite


Since U.S. President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions in November, exploratory talks with South Korea for up to 10 new supertankers have stalled.

“Panama has also removed no less than 21 Iranian tankers from its registry forcing Tehran to put the vessels under its own flag,’’ local media reported on Wednesday.

Washington has put restrictions on Iran’s port, energy and shipping sectors; however it has given temporary waivers to the country’s eight biggest oil customers, which include China, India and Japan, so they can keep buying Iranian crude.

With oil exports accounting for an estimated 70 per cent of Iran’s revenues, maintaining a fleet of enough tankers to store and move that oil is crucial for Tehran.

However, potential sellers of vessels are more wary under the new round of sanctions after a Greek network that helped Iran buy tankers under previous restrictions was blacklisted.

“Iran has been looking for ships, but this time round it is going to be harder, there is so much more scrutiny now.

“It is going to take them longer,” one shipping source said.

Western insurers are steering clear of Iranian vessels.

While Iran’s attempts to export crude to the U.S.-approved buyers is further complicated by having to put its tankers under its own flag, rather than a third country such as Panama.

If Iran runs into difficulties exporting its oil it could have a significant impact.

Besides the importance of oil for its budget, Iran is estimated to produce about 2.8 million barrels a day, more than 9 per cent of OPEC’s output.

“Panama, the world’s leading flag state for commercial shipping, following the reimposition of sanctions  decided to de-flag Iran’s ships,’’ an Iranian official said.

Report says shipping data shows nearly all Iran’s tankers had been registered with Panama.

All commercial ships have to be registered, flagged in a particular country, partly to comply with safety and environmental laws.

A source at Panama’s flag registry said the cancellation, “affects approximately 60 Panama registered ships that are related to Iranian and Syrian owners”.

However, the source did not provide further details.

No less than two other tankers registered to Panama, the Sarak and the Sobar, that were not previously considered part of Tehran’s fleet, have been re-flagged to Iran this year.

The owners of the vessels, who were listed in the British Virgin Islands, could not be contacted.


Iran oil coy raises prices for petrol, introduces quotas for product’s retail sale



Iran has introduced quotas for the retail sale of petrol and increased its prices, which will go into effect on Friday, the National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company said in a statement.

The move envisages that owners of private cars will be able to purchase 60 litres (13.2 gallons) of the product per month, while owners of dual-fuel cars will be able to purchase 30 litres.

A separate quota is also provided for taxi drivers who can use 400 litres of petrol.

A quota for motorcyclists is set at 25 litres, and there are also quotas for trucks and ambulances, according to the company.

At the same time, the price for a litre of petrol within the quota doubled to 15,000 Iranian rials per litre, (about $0.36).

Each additional litre of petrol beyond the quota costs 30,000 rials per litre.

In February, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zangeneh said that Iran’s petrol production had grown more than 100 per cent since 2013.

He added that the country could have even become a petrol exporter, but was currently accumulating reserves of the product. (Sputnik/NAN)

(Edited by Emmanuel Yashim)

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3 killed in Guinea anti-govt protests, opposition says



At least three people were killed in renewed anti-government protests in Guinea, an opposition party said on Friday.

The deaths occurred as opposition supporters marched on Thursday against President Alpha Conde’s plans to amend the constitution to run for a third term, the National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC) said in a statement.

Opposition leaders say security forces have killed at least 17 people since mid-October.

Human rights group Amnesty International places the death toll of those killed in various anti-government protests since 2015 at about 70.

Moreover, hundreds of people, including small children, have been injured by members of the security forces using live ammunition, batons and tear gas canisters, according to Amnesty.

Conde is due to step down in 2020, at the end of his second five-year presidential term, but has indicated plans to amend the constitution to allow him to run for re-election.

The 81-year-old came to power in 2010, and was re-elected in 2015, promising to strengthen democracy and fight corruption in the country of roughly 13 million people.

But he and his son have since then been implicated in numerous corruption scandals, largely linked to the mining industry, and has been suspected of election rigging.

Guinea is rich in bauxite, iron ore and diamonds but also mines gold, nickel and uranium.

Edited by Fatima Sule/Felix Ajide

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Poland to end natural gas supply deal with Gazprom in 2022



The Poland state-controlled natural gas group, PGNiG plans to terminate its current natural gas supply deal with Russian giant Gazprom when it expires at the end of 2022.

PGNiG which announced this in a market filing on Friday, said that the diversification of sources especially liquefied natural gas (LNG), the purchase of gas deposits in the North Sea, and the expansion of the pipeline grid meant that Poland’s supply was secure and would allow for the termination of the contract with Gazprom.

It is unclear whether the firm, which is a dominant market player in Poland, wants to discontinue purchases of the commodity from Gazprom altogether beyond 2022 or continue them but under different contractual conditions.

The Yamal contract has been criticized in Poland.

Due to the country’s long dependence on Russian natural gas, Poland were paying much more for the Russian commodity than richer but more diversified partners further west.

The Yamal contract, signed back in 1996, also included a provision that imposed a minimal amount of gas the country needed to buy each year.

Consequently, Poland has undertaken attempts to diversify its natural gas supply.

In recent years, it built an LNG terminal and launched LNG supplies from the U.S. and Qatar.

Poland also plans to link its natural gas grid with Danish and Norwegian grids via the Baltic Pipe project, expected to be operational near end 2022.

Poland has also been a vocal critic of the Nord Stream and Nord Stream two pipelines, which it sees as tools for increasing Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.

Countries such as Germany back the pipelines projects.

(Edited by Halima Sheji/Emmanuel Yashim)

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Floods displace 420,000 people in South Sudan, says Charity



More than 420,000 people have been displaced by heavy rainfall and flooding in South Sudan, Save the Children, a charity organisation said on Friday.

The aid organisation said that nearly 60 per cent of the displaced were already facing extreme malnutrition before the unusually heavy rains began in July.

In total, an estimated 900,000 people – or 7 per cent of the population – have been affected by the floods, according to Save the Children.

It was difficult to get life-saving assistance to the displaced due to the floods, and aid support had to be temporarily suspended in some areas, the organization said.

“The floods in South Sudan have reached crisis point and children and their families are in urgent need of support.

“The communities affected are already some of the most vulnerable in the country,” said Save the Children South Sudan Director Rama Hansraj.

More rain is predicted in the coming weeks.

In October, South Sudan declared a state of emergency after flooding killed nine people and displaced 25,000 others in 27 out of the East African nation’s 32 states.

(Edited by Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim)

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U.S. urges S. Korea to pay more for troops, ease tension with Japan



U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper said in Seoul on Friday that South Korea needed to pay more to support the presence of the U.S. military on its soil.

Esper, who spoke alongside his South Korean counterpart Jeong Kyeong, however, called for a military agreement between South Korea and Japan to be renewed when it expires, amid tensions between the two East Asian U.S. allies.

According to him, South Korea is a wealthy country and can, and should, offset the cost of defence.

“It is crucial that we conclude the 11th SMA (Special Measures Agreement) with increased burden sharing by the Republic of Korea before the end of the year,’’ he said.

But he also stressed U.S. commitment to the defence of South Korea, terming the alliance ironclad.

Esper described the 2016 GSOMIA accord between Japan and South Korea as an important tool by which South Korea, the U.S. and Japan share effective information, particularly in times of war.

The only beneficiaries of its termination would be North Korea and China, he said.

Seoul has indicated it does not intend to renew GSOMIA, an important source of information for Washington on North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme.

The U.S. has long called for its Asian allies to make greater contributions to the cost of stationing U.S. troops in the region.

According to media reports, Washington wants Seoul to contribute 5 billion dollars a year for the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, around five times what it currently pays.

(Edited by Halima Sheji/Emmanuel Yashim)

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Former senior Chinese food, drug administration official convicted of bribery, abuse of power



Wu Zhen, former deputy head of the now-defunct China food and drug administration, was sentenced to 16 years in jail after he was convicted of taking bribes and abuse of power Friday.

The ruling was handed down by the Intermediate People’s Court of Chengdu, southwest China’s Sichuan Province, in the first-instance open trial.

The court heard that between 1996 and 2018, Wu took advantage of his various positions to assist organisations and individuals in getting approval for drugs or finding employment.

In return, he illegally accepted money and goods worth about 21.71 million yuan (about 3.1 million U.S. dollars) directly or through his relatives.

He also committed fraud in his work for personal gain and abused his power when he served as a senior official of the country’s food and drug administration as well as the health authority, causing “huge losses” to the interests of the country and the people.

According to the verdict, Wu was also given a fine to the tune of 1 million yuan and had his illegal properties confiscated.

Wu received a lesser punishment as his attempts to take bribes worth 12 million yuan were unsuccessful and he confessed some of his criminal acts before investigators uncovered them.

He also expressed remorse and returned part of the bribes he had taken, said the court. (Xinhua/NAN)


(Edited by Emmanuel Yashim)

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