As US sanctions continue to squeeze Iranian oil export volumes, Syria looks to be the big benefactor. Imports of Iranian crude have averaged 84,000 b/d since May 2019, and tracking data from Tankertrackers.com indicates that Syria is due for record volumes in April – at least six tankers carrying some 6.8mn barrels (230,000 b/d) toward the Mediterranean port of Baniyas. This is up substantially versus typical 30,000-60,000 b/d (1-2 crude shipments a month) volumes imported by Syria during nine years of war.

Astonishingly, this likely means that for 2020 to date Syria has become the top importer of Iranian crude for the first time in history. Chinese imports from Iran plunged to a record-low 81,000 b/d in January-February (see chart 1) – and even with Chinese consumption beginning to recover, high stocks and a flooded global crude market may see Iran struggle to regain its already dwindled market share (MEES, 26 March). (CONTINUED - 1264 WORDS)