According to the data, China imported 855,638 tons in June, the equivalent of about 209,000 barrels a day, Bloomberg reported.
While that is less than in May and the lowest since mid-2010, the data adds to speculation that Beijing may risk running afoul of American sanctions to secure crude supplies from the Islamic Republic.
All eyes are on China’s oil purchases as Donald Trump’s administration continues to clamp down on companies and individuals flouting its restrictions. The import-reliant Asian nation is one of the few remaining buyers of Iranian barrels, after other countries such as South Korea and Japan halted flows.
The shipments that arrived at Chinese ports in June could nevertheless constitute the “incidental transactions” that US officials had previously said may occur without breaching restrictions. With a three to four-week voyage from Iran to China, it’s possible that some of the oil loaded before May 2 and arrived in China in June.
According to industry consultant FGE, about 450,000 barrels a day of Iranian oil were in transit as of early May when the US-issued waivers expired. Still, tankers are hauling millions of barrels of oil from the Islamic Republic towards China, although this hoard of crude may be held in what’s known as “bonded storage” without crossing customs.
China imported about 494,000 barrels a day of Iranian crude in the first five months of this year, compared with more than 660,000 barrels a day in the same period in 2018. In June, the Asian nation is expected to ramp up purchases from other major oil-producing countries in the Middle East, West Africa and Russia to make up for the loss of supplies from Iran.