UPDATE 1-U.S. to lift sanctions on a Dalian unit of Chinese shipper COSCO -U.S. official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Friday will lift sanctions on at least one Dalian unit of Chinese tanker company COSCO, which Washington accused of transporting Iranian oil, a U.S. official with knowledge of the matter said.

Sanctions on the company’s chief executive will also be lifted, the official said. Industry sources had told Reuters the move could come within days.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump blacklisted the two Dalian units of COSCO on Sept. 25 in a move that pushed global freight costs to record highs and disrupted shipping markets.

The Dalian COSCO units only have about 40 tankers, but Washington’s move led to confusion about whether sanctions applied to the parent company’s fleet of more than 1,000 ships.

The Treasury Department had twice issued waivers to allow companies to wind down dealings with the COSCO units, the latest of which was set to expire on Feb. 4, but shipping markets were still unnerved.

China is the lone major importer of Iranian oil despite Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Tehran that includes cutting Iran’s oil revenue to zero.

Trump began re-imposing sanctions on Iran’s vital oil exports after he unilaterally pulled the United States from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Additional reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Timothy Gardner; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Tom Brown

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