China Books Supertanker to Ship Iran Crude Amid Looming Oil Ban

Unipec, the trading unit of China’s largest refiner, booked a supertanker to ship Iranian crude this month as the Persian Gulf nation continues to supply its biggest customer before Europe bans its oil exports.

State-owned China International United Petroleum & Chemical Co. hired the Takamine, a very large crude carrier, to carry 265,000 metric tons from Kharg Island, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and reports from five shipbrokers including a unit of Clarkson Plc. The provisional booking, for loading around Feb. 24, is subject to change or cancellation.

Huang Wensheng, a Beijing-based spokesman at China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., the parent of Unipec, declined to comment on the fixture or oil contracts with Iran, citing business confidentiality.

Iran, the second-biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, faces a July 1 oil embargo from the European Union because of its nuclear program. In the first half of 2011, China was the largest importer of Iranian crude, followed by Japan, India, South Korea and Italy, according to data from the U.S. Energy Department.

The Japan-flagged Takamine is sailing in the Pacific from Tokyo Bay to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates, according to transmissions captured by AISLive on Bloomberg. The double-hulled vessel, built in 2004, is owned by Nippon Yusen KK.

Unipec last week took delivery of another VLCC, the Yuan Yang Hu, which loaded from Kharg Island on about Dec. 31, ship-tracking data shows. The China-flagged vessel is docked in Bohai Bay.

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