Sevastopol, Crimea (PortSEurope) September 6, 2019 – Russia, via occupied Crimea, has offered U.S. sanctions-hit Iran use of its Black Sea ports to transport crude to world markets, following the decrease of Iranian oil exports from 2.5 million barrels per day to under half a million within only a few months. Russia annexed Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in February–March 2014 and since then it has been administered as two Russian
federal identities – the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol. The annexation was accompanied by Russian military intervention in Crimea that took place in the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution and was part of wider unrest across southern and eastern Ukraine. Russia and Crimea are also under U.S. and European Union (EU) sanctions for its meddling in Ukraine. Iran has previously sent crude oil to Syria (the war-torn country is also under U.S. and EU sanctions) and Turkey through the Suez Canal, but this route has become problematic since the U.S. pulled out of a nuclear deal with Tehran and imposed economic sanctions. A tanker carrying Iranian oil to Syria was reportedly detained last month by the Egyptian authorities as it travelled through the Suez Canal, according to Iranian media. Egypt denied the reports. The British Navy seized a giant Iranian oil tanker, laden with 2 million barrels of oil, in Gibraltar, also last month. The ship was released after a five-week standoff. Turkey might also be tempted to get discounted oil due the sanctions on Iran. Georgy Muradov, Deputy Prime Minister of Crimea’s Russia-installed government, said Iran could use Crimea port facilities to transport oil. Muradov refers to the Caspian Sea-Volga/Don rivers canal-Black Sea route, which offers Iran a convenient way, despite being costlier, to export oil. Inaugurated in 1952, the 101-km (45 km through rivers and reservoirs) long Volga-Don canal has 13 locks. The average sailing time for navigating the canal is 211 hours. It can handle 16.5 million tonnes of cargo a year. Russia wants to increase the volume of goods transported by the Volga-Don route to over 20 million tons (16 million tons were transported in 2018). It is also expected that the long-awaited construction of the second part of the route will finally begin. Iran and Russia have yet to implement an oil-for-goods scheme originally signed in 2014 and extended for five more years, which calls for Iranian crude exports of up to 500,000 barrels per day in return for Russian goods. The agreement stipulates swapping of 300,000 barrels per day of Iranian oil via the Caspian Sea and the rest from the Persian Gulf. In June, Iran and Russia signed a dozen cooperation agreements covering energy, railway, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and tourism, with senior officials stressing the political will of the two countries to reinforce ties in the face of U.S. sanctions. The agreements were signed as Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak visited Iran with a delegation of 120 businesspeople, including representatives of private and public companies. Severely hit by the sanctions imposed on Crimea after its annexation by Russia in 2014, Sevastopol port offered in early 2019 to provide transhipment of several million tonnes of Syrian cargo per year. Copyright (C) PortSEurope. All Rights Reserved. 2019.