Earlier this year Chinese ship-owners prevailed on Beijing for coverage, but there has been no evidence that such steps are forthcoming. An Indian official said last week that New Delhi was struggling to resolve the problem. Industry sources said earlier that the country's mostly state-owned refiners would be forced to halt imports without a solution.
"Oil traders see Iran's buyers creating workable substitutes for EU maritime insurance through sovereign guarantees," said Mark Dubowitz, head of the non-profit group Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which advocates tough sanctions on Iran.
NITC, the Islamic republic's biggest private tanker operator, has sought to reassure customers that it can keep shipments moving with $1 billion of insurance coverage on its own fleet, largely from privately owned Kish P&I.
If deployed in full, NITC's fleet of 39 vessels would theoretically be enough to carry a maximum of around 62 million barrels of oil, data from its website showed. Assuming a 35-day round trip to China, the fleet could theoretically ship 1.8 million bpd, more than Iran's current exports.