Petrochem players cautious after Iran tanker incident

Middle East petrochemical traders say Iran's actions unlikely to destabilise petrochemical shipping in region
The chemical oil tanker Alpine Eternity was fired on by Iran forcing it to flee to Jebel Ali
The chemical oil tanker Alpine Eternity was fired on by Iran forcing it to flee to Jebel Ali

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Petrochemical players in the Middle East are being more cautious over shipments that pass through the Arabian Gulf after Iran fired warning shots at a Singapore-flagged chemical oil tanker in the Straits of Hormuz earlier this month.

“Nobody is excessively alarmed by this, but we are all taking usual precautions,” a major Dubai polymer trader active in Iran told ICIS.com.

Other traders said Iran’s actions were likely a form of “political posturing” by Iran ahead of its nuclear negotiations with six world powers next month.

“Iran may be asserting itself before the landmark talks,” said a source close to a major Middle East polymer producer.

According to industry sources, the incident has not resulted in any slowdown in overall trade.

The chemical oil tanker Alpine Eternity was fired on by Iranian military vessels on May 14th while en-route to Fujairah, forcing the ship to alter course and run for Jebel Ali with the assistance of the UAE Coast Guard.

Iran accuses the ship of causing damage to an oil drilling platform in March, but the ship’s owners claim the platform was submerged and unmarked on any charts.

The owners further insist that talks with Iranian parties have been ongoing, but payment of damages have been hampered by the international sanctions on Iran.

Singapore has called for an investigation of the incident. “Such interference with navigational rights is a serious violation of international law,” the country’s Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) said in a statement.

“The firing incident [in the Arabian Gulf] and the political tension between Iran and the GCC will only create instability [in the Middle East],” a Saudi-based petrochemical source told ICIS.com.

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