Iran, the third-largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), previously held oil in storage at Dalian during the last round of sanctions in 2014 that was later sold to buyers in South Korea and India, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
The very large crude carrier Dune, operated by National Iranian Tanker Company, offloaded oil into a bonded storage site at the Xingang section of the port, according to a shipping source based in Dalian, adding this was the first Iranian oil to be discharged into bonded storage in nearly four years.
The tanker left the Iranian oil port at Kharg Island on Sept. 12, according to ship-tracking data.
The Xingang area is home to several tank farms including commercial and strategic reserves. China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) and Dalian Port PDA Co. Ltd. both operate commercial storage in the area, according to information on their company websites.
A shipping source said there is no buyer earmarked for the cargo.
Three other NITC tankers are set to arrive in Dalian in the next week or two, the ship-tracking data showed.
Some of those cargoes are also likely to end up in bonded storage as the refineries in the region, controlled by CNPC, are not equipped to process Iranian oil, said three sources at state-run Chinese refiners.
China's Iranian oil buyers, including state-owned refiner Sinopec and state trader Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp., have shifted their cargoes to vessels owned by NITC since July to keep supplies flowing as the US sanctions have been reimposed.
Keeping oil in bonded storage gives the shipment owner the option to sell into China or to other buyers in the region.
In early 2014, NIOC leased bonded tanks in Dalian and oil from there was shipped to South Korea and India.