Source of picture: http://www.westernesa.com/
By John Richardson
AN allegation has been made that traders could be changing bills of lading on cargoes of a certain liquids chemical being shipped out of Iran in an effort to get round tougher international sanctions.
"What is I suspect is happening is that a cargo loaded in Iran is first being shipped to another country where the bill of lading is then changed to indicate that it was loaded in that second country. It then leaves this second port for its final destination," an industry source told the blog late last week.
We have obviously been told what particular chemical is involved in this alleged trade and where it is claimed that the trading companies are based - but have decided it would be best not to publish details without documentary proof (which, with our resources, we are very unlikely to get!).
A second source said yesterday that while he hadn't heard of specific instances where this was happening, he would not be surprised at all if bills of lading were being changed given current market conditions.
But a shipping broker pointed out over the phone this morning that bills of lading were checked very closely by ship owners, none of whom would do anything that was illegal.
"If this is happening I think it must therefore be on a very small scale," he said.
Regardless of the truth of the allegation, the people we spoke to agree that the Iranian petrochemicals and polymer industries are becoming increasingly marginalised by the tougher sanctions.
Questions are being asked about whether Iran will be able to continue to export ethylene. This would be a big deal for the merchant market as the country is a major source of supply.
"If you are a trader and attempt to make payments to Iran in either dollars or euros through a Western bank, there is a much higher chance these days that the money will be frozen," added our first source.
"Similarly, any money you are owed by an end-user for a cargo from Iran is much more likely to be suspended in the current political climate."
And the shipping broker added: "There is big pressure from the US on Western banks and on lenders in the Middle East - particularly in Abu Dhabi and Dubai where a lot of business is done with Iran.
"US officials are paying visits to those suspected of continuing business with Iran and are being warned that if they don't comply with the new rules, they will be banned from doing business in both the US and in the Euro zone. No major bank can take that risk."
We have also been told that it has become much harder to insure Iranian shipments - as there is also greater pressure on the insurance companies.