Beijing says it is taking steps to prevent European sanctions from disrupting Iranian oil shipments to China, by nominating an insurance company to cover those shipments.

“The Chinese government is discussing ways to help shipping companies get insurance once sanctions against Iran take effect on July 1,” Bloomberg quoted general manager of China's Shipping Development Company as saying on Friday.

According to Yan Zhichong, the Chinese Ministry of Transport and National Development Reform Commission has held special meetings on the issue.

“The attitude is clear; we must make sure that the volume of our [oil] shipments [from Iran] will not drop. The [Chinese] government regards it as a very important issue,” Yan added.

He went on to say that China may nominate an insurance company to cover oil shipments from Iran to ensure that supplies will continue.

The European Union approved new sanctions on Iran's oil and financial sectors on January 23 which aim to prevent member states from buying Iranian crude or doing business with its central bank.

Experts say the EU sanctions threaten to disrupt oil shipments to other countries because about 95 percent of the world’s tankers are insured against risks such as oil spills by the 13 members of the London-based International Group of P&I Clubs.

The 27-nation bloc is currently considering an exception for “third-party liability insurance and environmental liability insurance,” according to a draft of the regulation which was sent to Bloomberg.

Andrew Bardot, secretary and executive officer of International Group of P&I Clubs, said the proposal would allow tankers owned outside the EU to continue carrying Iranian oil even if they are insured in Europe.

The draft has been sent to national governments and the bloc hopes to complete the regulation within a month, according to an EU official with knowledge of the matter.

China is the biggest buyer of Iranian crude and figures released by US Department of Energy show that about 22 percent of Iranian oil exports go to the East Asian country.

Beijing also strongly opposes trade restrictions against Iran, saying that oil sanctions are not “constructive.”

The US and EU have imposed tough financial and oil sanctions against Iran since the beginning of 2012, claiming that the country’s nuclear energy program includes a military component.

Tehran refutes their claims noting that frequent inspections by International Atomic Energy Agency have failed to prove any diversion in Iran's nuclear energy program toward military purposes.

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News ID 181609