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Iran, Unable to Sell Oil, Stores It On Tankers

The Washington Post
13th May 2012

Increasingly hard-pressed to find buyers for its petroleum, Iran has been routinely switching off satellite tracking systems on its sea-bound oil tankers for more than a month, in what U.S. officials and industry analysts describe as a cat-and-mouse game with Western governments seeking to enforce sanctions on Iranian exports.

The unusual tactic was begun in early April and affects a quarter of Iran’s tanker fleet, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), which has been monitoring the practice. The move, a violation of maritime law, is only modestly effective in cloaking 1,000-foot-long tankers as they ply the oceans in search of open ports and willing buyers. But it underscores Iran’s precarious position as it faces ever-tighter Western restrictions against its oil industry, which provides the bulk of export and government revenue.

Hobbled by sanctions against its banks and a growing international boycott of its petroleum, Iran is seeing its revenue sag while its oil sits in storage depots and floats in tankers with nowhere to go, U.S. security officials and diplomats say.

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