(Adds details, Indian trader quotes)
By Nidhi Verma
NEW DELHI, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Crew members on board Iranian
oil tanker Crystal have stopped unloading in India's Mangalore
port in protest over non-payment of salaries, three sources said
While it was unclear why the salaries had not been paid,
Western sanctions, particularly from the United States and
European Union, have sliced Iran's oil revenues and squeezed its
financing. India was already paying for almost half of crude
purchases in rupees and from Feb. 6, tighter measures have made
it tougher for Iran to repatriate any funds from oil sales.
Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd managing
director P. P. Upadhya said six crew members are on strike,
although he didn't give a reason.
"About three-fourths of the vessel was unloaded and they are
neither discharging the remaining cargo nor going back. But
talks are in progress," Upadhya told Reuters.
A shipping source said there are six Ukrainian crew members
on board the Crystal, who had told him they have not been paid
for as long as four months. The source added that the crew
members are refusing to accept payment in rupees.
"They have unloaded only 70-80 percent of the cargo but they
refused to unload the remainder because of salary issues," the
shipping source said.
The aframax vessel at Mangalore port is owned by the
National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC). NITC officials were not
immediately available for comment.
Last month, the Indian-owned tanker Omvati Prem delayed
discharge of Iranian crude at Mangalore because of a funding
issue with a Dubai-based charterer Sea Enterprises, which has
links with a blacklisted Iranian company, Royal Oyster Group.
Indian refiners have been paying for 45 percent of their
crude purchases in the rupee, which is restricted in trading on
international markets, and the two countries have been trying to
find goods that Tehran can buy to balance out the oil sales.
But Indian traders are wary of striking fresh deals with
Iran due to a number of problems, including delayed payments.
"There are so many issues which make dealing with Iran very
difficult. There are limitations when it comes to banks,
shipping and insurance and that typically leads to inordinate
delays in payments," said Vijay Setia, a leading rice exporter
and former president of the All India Rice Exporters'
"Iran was a leading buyer of India's rice, especially
premium basmati, but exports have been facing problems and
shipments have been falling," he said.
The sanctions are aimed at forcing the OPEC member to curb
its nuclear programme and more than halved the country's oil
exports in 2012. The West believes the programme is meant for
making an atom bomb, an accusation Iran denies.
According to Mangalore port's website, the Crystal arrived
on Sunday, Feb. 10, and was berthed on Feb. 11. Calls to the
Mangalore Port chairman's office were not answered.
The shipping source and a trade source said that Iran had
cleared payments to the sailors up to Dec. 31, but the crew had
refused to discharge the remaining cargo as they had not yet
received confirmation from their banks of the payments.
(Additional reporting by Daniel Fineren in DUBAI; Mayank
Bhardwaj in NEW DELHI and Jonathan Saul in LONDON; Editing by