On the same day that Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif traveled to Beijing for talks on "regional and international issues,” the Chinese oil tanker PACIFIC BRAVO began traveling eastward, having loaded approximately 2 million barrels of Iranian oil from the Soroosh and Kharg terminals in the Persian Gulf over the past few days, according to analysis provided by TankerTrackers.com.
PACIFIC BRAVO is currently reporting its destination as Indonesia, but the tanker was recently acquired by Bank of Kunlun, a financial institution that is owned by the Chinese state oil company CNPC. TankerTrackers.com believes China is the ultimate destination for the oil on board.
PACIFIC BRAVO is the first major tanker to load Iranian crude after the Trump administration revoked waivers permitting the purchases by eight of Iran’s oil customers. The revocation of the waivers, which sent shockwaves through the global oil market, was a major escalation of Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran.
The purchase of Iranian oil in the absence of a waiver exposes the companies involved in the transaction—including the tanker operator, refinery customer, and bank—to possible designation by the U.S. Treasury Department, threatening the links these companies may maintain with the U.S. financial system.