Iran Economy NewsIran's NITC to add 22 very large crude carriers...

Iran’s NITC to add 22 very large crude carriers to tanker fleet by 2013

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Bloomberg: NITC of Iran will become the world’s third-biggest oil-tanker company by 2013 when it takes delivery of 22 very large crude carriers, or VLCCs, and expands the number of ships in its fleet by 72 percent, an executive said.

By Maher Chmaytelli

Jan. 23 (Bloomberg) — NITC of Iran will become the world’s third-biggest oil-tanker company by 2013 when it takes delivery of 22 very large crude carriers, or VLCCs, and expands the number of ships in its fleet by 72 percent, an executive said.

NITC, formerly known as National Iranian Tanker Co., is not hindered by economic sanctions on Iran, Area Manager Capt. R. Ghareh told reporters today in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.

The company continues to carry crude produced by Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Total SA, in addition to oil from Saudi Aramco and state-run producers in Kuwait and Abu Dhabi, the U.A.E. capital. “We have not faced any problem,” Ghareh said.

The Iranian operator expects by 2013 to have 74 ships of all sizes, including VLCCs and smaller vessels, he said. NITC will operate 50 VLCCs at that time, up from 28 today. It now ranks as the fifth-largest tanker operator worldwide, with a total of 43 ships.

The United Nations, the U.S. and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Iran because of that country’s nuclear program. The U.S. and its allies suspect that Iran seeks a capability to build atomic weapons, while Iran says it wants nuclear technology solely for civilian purposes such as electricity generation.

Ghareh said NITC is not using its vessels to store oil in the hope of profiting from a further increase in prices. “We are a transport company,’ he said. “We don’t do trading.”

Brent crude contracts for March settlement rose $1.02 to finish trading at $97.60 a barrel in London on Jan. 21. U.S. crude for March delivery ended the day at $89.11 a barrel in New York, where futures are up 17 percent from a year ago. Iran has the world’s fourth-biggest oil reserves.

LNG Carriers

NITC plans to buy liquefied natural gas carriers when Iran starts producing LNG, Ghareh said, without specifying when this would happen. Iran has the world’s second-biggest gas reserves after Russia, according to data from BP Plc.

NITC would eventually need to order 83 LNG tankers, based on Iran’s production plans for the fuel. Iran doesn’t yet produce LNG, which is gas chilled into liquid form for easy transportation by ship.

Like many other shipping lines in the Middle East, NITC has suffered from piracy, with its tankers coming under attack 16 times so far, the company’s Technical Manager Anwar Lodhi said.

“Our view is that the ships should be allowed to carry weapons” to defend against pirates, Lodhi told reporters. NITC’s tankers “carry guards sometimes, but they are not armed,” he said.

Pension Funds

NITC is owned by funds managing pensions for 5 million Iranians, according to an advertisement that the company posted in September in the shipping industry newspaper Tradewinds, in response to an EU decision to ban the provision of insurance to companies incorporated in Iran.

The advertisement said the shipping line doesn’t carry materials linked to nuclear proliferation, nor does it import oil products into Iran or transfer technology related to oil exploration, refining or liquefied natural gas.

NITC’s ships carried 104 million metric tons of crude last year, 51 percent of which went to Europe, according to the advertisement.

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