The Iranian regime is sidestepping Western sanctions and managing to sell hundreds of thousands of tonnes of fuel oil every month through companies based in United Arab Emirates, according to a report.
Sources have told Reuters that Iran is using various methods to export oil in violation of international sanctions that came into force in 2012.
The methods include tankers switching off their tracking systems, ship-to-ship transfers, discharging and loading at remote ports, blending Iranian products with fuels from another source to alter the shipment's physical specification and selling them with Iraqi-origin documents.
The Iranian fuel oil is mainly offered from the UAE port through trading firms acting as middlemen for buyers.
The middlemen are small firms - who buy the products at below-market prices, for a bigger profit margin - rather than larger traders who would not run the risk of falling foul of U.S. authorities and threatening their international operations.
The sources estimate Iranian fuel oil exports at around 200,000-400,000 tonnes per month in recent months. That compares with 600-650,000 tonnes in 2011, before sanctions.
Reuters data corroborates the estimate of the sources, and also shows sharp fluctuations in fuel oil flows, which traders said was likely due to stockpiling by Iran late last year to avoid winter shortages.