Iran's oil exports have picked up modestly in January for the third consecutive month, according to sources who track tanker movements, adding to signs that the easing of sanctions pressure on Tehran is helping its oil exports to recover.
The increase in shipments is around 50,000 barrels per day (bpd), according to one tracker company, which would take Iranian exports to around 1.2 million bpd for January and add about $150 million a month to Tehran's depleted oil revenues.
The small rise is unlikely to be a direct consequence of the easing of sanctions, which only took effect on Monday, and shippers say they are still waiting to finalize the paperwork now insurance restrictions on vessels carrying Iranian crude have been eased.
But the interim deal, which was agreed back in November in return for curbs on Iran's nuclear program, has improved sentiment and reduced risk for buyers, giving Iranian exports a much-needed boost in the months since.
"The suspension of oil export sanctions takes the pressure off Iran's oil sector, which was close to running out of storage capacity for its production surplus and in danger of incurring irreparable losses stemming from the forced closure of oil fields," said Mark Dubowitz, of U.S.-based think-tank the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a proponent of tough sanctions on Iran.
"There will be reduced transaction costs to service shipments of crude. And Iran now can cease to rely on foreign-owned vessels to transport goods, freeing up shipping capacity to deliver its oil."