An oil exploration rig off the coast of Abu Dhabi. Picture used for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Mumbai:  Three crude oil tankers from Iran, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries' (Opec) second-biggest oil producer, sailed for India's west coast in January while the nations discussed ways to resolve a gridlock over payments.

The Darab, owned by National Iranian Tanker Co, was headed last week to the western Indian port of Vadinar, where state-run Indian Oil Corp, the nation's biggest refiner, and Essar Oil Ltd take deliveries of crude, according to ship transmissions captured by AISLIVE on Bloomberg.

Main terminal

The Darab, with a capacity of 345,000 metric tonnes, departed from Kharg Island, Iran's main crude-export terminal, Bloomberg data show.

Indian refiners need to find alternative means to pay for Iranian crude after the Reserve Bank of India on December 27 said companies must settle trades with Tehran outside the Asian Clearing Union, a regional payment arrangement. This dismantled a mechanism used to complete payments for oil in euros and dollars.

Two ships, the Remi and Fair Spirit, with a combined cargo of 180,000 tonnes were scheduled to reach Mangalore in southern India later yesterday, according to vessel transmissions and data from Clarkson Research Services, a unit of the world's biggest shipbroker.

The Remi, which can transport about 105,000 tonnes, was chartered by state-run Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals or MRPL to transport 90,000 tonnes from the Arabian Gulf in late December, according to data from Clarkson.

MRPL, a unit of India's biggest energy explorer Oil and Natural Gas Corp, buys about 7 million tonnes of crude from Iran every year, making it the South Asian nation's biggest buyer of oil from that country, Managing Director U.K. Basu said on December 30.

The Fair Spirit, which can carry about 100,000 tonnes, was chartered by MRPL to transport 90,000 tonnes to Mangalore from Kharg Island in early January, according to Clarkson data.

The Remi and Fair Spirit have been chartered by MRPL to also load 180,000 tonnes from Kharg Island and the Gulf in mid-January, the data show.

On credit

Indian Oil and state-run rival Hindustan Petroleum Corp will get crude from Iran on credit this month, two persons with direct knowledge of the matter said on Tuesday.

Iran will supply Hindustan Petroleum, India's third-largest state refiner, with 1 million barrels on 90 days of credit, one of the persons said. The refiners are exploring the possibility of paying for Iranian crude in yen, dirhams or Iranian rials.

Oil Secretary S. Sundareshan said on December 30 that India imports about 21 million tonnes of crude from Iran annually.

Iran is India's biggest supplier after Saudi Arabia, Oil Minister Murli Deora said in parliament on April 15.

The United Nations in June stepped up punitive measures against Iran over its nuclear ambitions, applying a fourth round of sanctions. The US and European Union later imposed additional restrictions.

Iran says it is enriching uranium for power generation.

The US has increased pressure on Iran's banks, the country's national security leadership and on companies that invest in Iran's energy industry.

Iran pumped 3.7 million barrels per day in December, making it the second-largest producer in Opec, according to a Bloomberg survey.