The House this fall passed a budget authorization measure that would block the Coast Guard from using classification societies that work in Iran. It said the Coast Guard could use a firm only “if the Secretary of State determines that the foreign classification society does not provide comparable services in or for a state sponsor of terrorism.”
The current markup of the Senate appropriations bill for the State Department and foreign operations would seek to do the same, calling on the secretary of state to come up with steps against noncompliant firms and report back to Congress.
DNV’s Collins said that the moves in Congress “probably sped up that decision-making process” for leaving Iran. Until a month ago, when it began to withdraw, DNV had provided certification for 38 to 40 vessels flying the Iranian flag, he said.
“We actually think we’re ahead of the legislation,” Collins said. “So we have a pretty clear conscience.”
DNV inspects vessels and rigs in the United States on behalf of the Coast Guard. It inspected the Transocean Deepwater Horizon rig, which exploded and sank last year, killing 11 people working on BP’s Maconda well. Later DNV performed the U.S. government autopsy of the blowout preventer from the Macondo well, which spilled about 5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
DNV has also certified oil tankers flagged in Cyprus and Malta and belonging to the National Iranian Tanker Co., which Iran privatized in 2009 but is still seen as close to the government. It owns about 10 percent of the world’s very large crude oil carriers and plans to expand.
DNV has advisory committees for different countries, and its advisory committee for Iran has included three officials from the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, a company that the Treasury in 2008 found to be providing logistical services, including shipments of military-related cargoes, to Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics.
The oil rigs currently operating in Iranian waters mostly work for Iranian state-owned companies. The rigs are owned by a variety of foreign firms, including Norway’s Sinvest, London-based Foresight Group, China Oilfield Service, Japan Drilling and Saipem, a subsidiary of Italian oil giant ENI. Industry sources said they would probably be certified by either Lloyd’s or Bureau Veritas. BV did not respond to inquiries.
Lloyd’s List, a publication, on Monday printed articles arguing that tighter sanctions would ratchet up the price of crude oil by threatening Iran’s roughly 2 million barrels a day of exports. About a quarter of that goes to China and about 12 percent to Japan. Refiners in Greece, Italy and Spain receive about 450,000 barrels a day of Iranian crude, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, some by ship and some via a pipeline through Egypt.
“Oil prices should be closer to $80 a barrel,” said Fadel Gheit, oil analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. But he said speculation about a supply disruption has probably added about $20 a barrel because of “a combination of Libya, Iran and everything else. The boogeyman. No one knows how big or what shape he’s going to take.”
The Eurasia Group, a political-risk firm, said fears about rising oil prices would end up prompting Western nations to back off from sanctions — including recent European moves to restrict dealings with the Central Bank of Iran — that might hit Iran’s crude exports. “These concerns are overblown, and the actual lasting market impact will probably be limited,” the group said in a recent note.