The global shipping industry was thrown a curveball on Wednesday when the U.S. imposed fresh sanctions on Chinese entities and people who it accuses of deliberately purchasing oil from Iran in violation of Washington's sanctions against Tehran, Bloomberg reported.
The U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions on five Chinese nationals and six entities, including a unit of COSCO Shipping Corp., who were knowingly violating restrictions on purchasing Iranian petroleum.
"And we are telling China, and all nations: know that we will sanction every violation," Pompeo said at a conference on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in NYC.
Bloomberg spoke with oil traders who canceled bookings with sanctioned entities and let provisional charters lapse as they wanted to avoid being caught up in the fight between Washington and Tehran.
Oil traders are concerned about the cargoes that have already been loaded on vessels and don't know if they have to transfer loads to unsanctioned tankers. It's a chaotic mess, traders said.
"The sanctions this time are more direct and will have an immediate effect on anyone chartering sanctioned tonnage," said John Driscoll, chief strategist at JTD Energy Service Pte. "These latest moves are likely to add more inconvenience and result in higher costs. Anyone time-chartering tonnage from a sanctioned owner better have a Plan B."
Recent missile and drone attacks on Saudi Aramco oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, mostly blamed on Iran, have boosted oil prices, and driven up concerns about a regional war. Iran has since denied responsibility.
"The more Iran lashes out, the greater our pressure will and should be," Pompeo said. "That path forward begins now with two new actions."
In a speech at the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, President Trump said he would continue pressuring Iran's economy with sanctions until Tehran collapses.
Ahead of trade talks with China, slated for early October, the new round U.S. sanctions on Chinese companies could complicate negotiations. China has clearly stated that it would like all economic duties and sanctions removed before it would consent to a deal, something that the Trump administration isn't likely to do. The trade war is more about crushing China, and it's about defending the American empire against a rising power, that is China, so the idea of removing all sanctions and making a deal with the communists isn't likely in the next few weeks.
"The U.S. disregards the legitimate rights and interests of all parties and arbitrarily wields the stick of sanctions," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang at a daily news briefing in Beijing earlier this week. "It is a gross violation of the basic norms of international relations."
The sanctioned Chinese firms include China Concord Petroleum Co., Kunlun Shipping Co., Pegasus 88 Ltd., and COSCO Shipping Tanker (Dalian) Seaman & Ship Management Co. All have been charged with violating restrictions on transporting Iranian crude and petroleum products. Additional restrictions were also imposed on executives at some of the companies sanctioned.
Several shipbrokers and charterers spoke with Bloomberg, who asked not to be named, said several tankers operated by COSCO had their bookings dropped, while others saw provisional charters canceled.
Sanctions against Iran and anyone who purchases crude and petroleum products from the Middle Eastern country are aimed at economically destroying Tehran.
China imported 788,000 tons of crude from Iran in August, that compares with a monthly average of 2.4 million tons last year.
And the probabilities of a trade deal between the U.S. and China this year continue to move lower as China has explicitly said it wouldn't tolerate increasing duties and or sanctions, indicating that the only way to make a deal is the complete removal of all duties and or sanctions.