Uncovering Iran's sanctions-busting sale of fuel oil on the high seas

  
Via:  bob-nelson  •  4 weeks ago  •  20 comments

Uncovering Iran's sanctions-busting sale of fuel oil on the high seas
It was a quiet day in January, and many oil traders were still on holiday, when two sources in the industry called to alert me to something unusual - a supertanker that had gone off radar for two weeks appeared off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and was pumping out fuel oil to two smaller vessels.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


original

The sources said it appeared that the supertanker was selling Iranian oil in violation of U.S. sanctions. If confirmed, the sale would shine a rare light on how traders and shippers were evading the sanctions.

My first task was to identify and monitor the vessels involved. I called up satellite data offered by Refinitiv, a sister company of Thomson Reuters, that show the movements of ships around the world.

I also reached out to three other institutions that track the passage of ships and confirmed that the supertanker, the Grace 1, had its Automatic Identification System, or transponder, switched off between Nov. 30 and Dec. 14, 2018, meaning its location could not be tracked.

The transponder is an instrument that all large commercial ships are required to keep on, to pinpoint their location. However, it’s difficult to police vessels that switch it off on the high seas.

The satellite data showed the supertanker re-appearing in waters near Iran’s port of Bandar Assaluyeh. The data also includes the ship’s draught - how deep a vessel sits in water - and it was near maximum at the time, indicating its cargo tanks were full.

The Grace 1 then lined up next to two smaller tankers between Jan. 16 and Jan. 22 in waters offshore Fujairah in the UAE, the data showed. When both left the area, their cargos were full.

Following tankers via satellite images wasn’t enough, however. I contacted the companies managing the Grace 1 and the two smaller vehicles.

Reuters also mobilized journalists in Baghdad and Tripoli in Libya to talk directly to ship managers, port officials and shipping agents about the transactions.

NO RESPONSE


The Grace 1, a Panamanian-flagged tanker, is managed by Singapore-based shipping services firm IShips Management Pte Ltd, according to shipping data. IShips did not respond to several requests for comment via email or phone.

I visited the Singapore office listed on IShips’ website but was told by the current tenant that the company had moved out two years earlier.

The manager of Kriti Island, one of the smaller vessels, e-mailed me a document, the Certificate of Origin, showing the oil was loaded from the port of Basra in Iraq.

The next step was go to Iraq to establish the authenticity of the document.

An official from Iraq’s state oil marketer SOMO told Ahmed Rasheed, a Baghdad-based Reuters correspondent, the document was “faked” and “completely wrong”. The official declined to be identified by name, citing the marketer’s communications policy.

Two other Iraqi oil industry sources with direct knowledge of Basra port and oil industry operations also told Rasheed the document was forged.

The two sources said the document bore the signature of a manager who was not working at Basra port on the stated dates. The document also contained contradictory dates: It indicated a loading period of Dec. 10 and 12, 2018 but a sign-off date for the transaction of 11 months earlier, at Jan. 12, 2018.

Basra port loading schedules reviewed by Reuters did not list the Grace 1 as being in port between Dec. 10-12.

Major oil traders form a small group and soon talk was spreading that Reuters was investigating the Grace 1 transactions.

Reuters received several unsolicited calls, text messages, and even a legal notice by e-mail aimed at preventing the publication of such an article.

After many more checks and clearance by our legal advisers, the article uncovering Iranian fuel oil shipments despite U.S. sanctions was published on March 20, two months after the first chatter of such trades. The story was among the most read on the day by Reuters clients and it was widely circulated by media customers.

Two days later, a U.S. State Department official said Washington was investigating and that it reserved the right to take action against any person helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions on energy shipments.

Initial image: FILE PHOTO: A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Persian Gulf, Iran, July 25, 2005. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/File Photo

Tags

jrDiscussion - desc
Find text within the comments Find 
 
Bob Nelson
1  seeder  Bob Nelson    4 weeks ago
The satellite data showed the supertanker re-appearing in waters near Iran’s port of Bandar Assaluyeh. The data also includes the ship’s draught - how deep a vessel sits in water - and it was near maximum at the time, indicating its cargo tanks were full.
 
 
 
Bob Nelson
2  seeder  Bob Nelson    4 weeks ago

Please read the seed. Please Comment on-topic. Thank you.

 
 
 
Steve Ott
3  Steve Ott    4 weeks ago

And this article proves what? That Iran is breaking America's rules? What sane country wouldn't? 

Do you know anything of the history of America's actions in the Middle East? I think perhaps you do, but I'm not sure what this article is supposed to show and/or prove.

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
3.1  seeder  Bob Nelson  replied to  Steve Ott @3    4 weeks ago

It isn't supposed to show anything other than what it shows. Please note that while it shows Iran getting around the US embargo, it doesn't say that the the embargo is right... or wrong.

My personal opinion is that America's high-handedness guarantees that Iran will continue to develop nuclear weapons, regardless of regime. We have been screwing Iran since the 1953 CIA coup against the democratically elected PM, Mossadegh. We installed the Shah and the bloody SAVAK. We supplied satellite intelligence to Saddam Fucking Hussein during the Iraq-Iran war. We sided with Saddam Fucking Hussein!

The Iranian people don't like the Ayatollahs. But they actively hate America, for very good reasons. The only way they will ever get out from under Uncle Sam's thumb is to go nuclear. Obviously.

America holds talks with Kim.

 
 
 
Steve Ott
3.1.1  Steve Ott  replied to  Bob Nelson @3.1    4 weeks ago
But they actively hate America, for very good reasons.

Indeed they do. I worked with a bunch of Persians, they didn't refer to themselves as Iranians, in '73 and '74. They were very afraid to go home because they thought they would be killed, but at the same time, they were afraid that if they didn't, their families would be killed. To the last man, they were petroleum engineer students.

I do remember those guys had some outstanding hash. Blow you away.

America's heavy handedness in the past is coming home to roost and will bring disastrous fruit to bear.

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
3.1.2  seeder  Bob Nelson  replied to  Steve Ott @3.1.1    4 weeks ago

We're the Bad Guys in this story.

 
 
 
Steve Ott
3.1.3  Steve Ott  replied to  Bob Nelson @3.1.2    4 weeks ago

As we should be.

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
3.1.4  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Bob Nelson @3.1.2    4 weeks ago
"We're the Bad Guys in this story."

That may well be, but it also proves that Iran cannot be trusted and anyone who believes they are complying with the nuclear treaty needs to have their head examined.  Ain't takiyyah a handy tool for liars?

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
3.1.5  seeder  Bob Nelson  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @3.1.4    4 weeks ago

This proves nothing like that.

Iran is getting around an embargo unilaterally declared by the US, on the grounds - also unilaterally decreed by the US - that Iran was cheating on its obligations under the multilateral nuclear accord.

This is America throwing its weight around.

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
3.1.6  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Bob Nelson @3.1.5    4 weeks ago

Yes, you are actually correct, Bob.  We MUST trust and tolerate Iran's rights with its "Death to America, Death to Israel" chanting and threats to civilization - no way we can criticize that terrorist-proxy-supporting nation.  Its oil and money is so much more important to other nations in this world that control of its hegemony is impossible.

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
3.1.7  seeder  Bob Nelson  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @3.1.6    4 weeks ago
We MUST trust...

I didn't say that, Buzz. I didn't say anything remotely resembling that.

If you'd like a conversation, you'll have to start over.

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
3.1.8  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Bob Nelson @3.1.7    4 weeks ago

Okay, I'll start over.

Yes, you are actually correct, Bob.  Iran is not obligated to stop selling oil to nations that wish to purchase it.  America's sanctions do not affect that.

And they most likely try to hide their shipping it in order to protect the buying nations from America's retribution.  Sneaky bastards, eh?

My biggest concern about Iran is:  (Take note that this is a new paragraph and you could call it off topic if you wish.)  We MUST trust and tolerate Iran's rights with its "Death to America, Death to Israel" chanting and threats to civilization - no way we can criticize that terrorist-proxy-supporting nation.  Its oil and money is so much more important to other nations in this world that control of its hegemony is impossible.

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
3.1.9  seeder  Bob Nelson  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @3.1.8    4 weeks ago

There are several important points.

America is, in general, acting alone. Other nations may knuckle under, to avoid Amerca's wrath, but all are dragging their feet as much as possible. No one except the folks who invented the Forever War believe that Iran's nuclear program is far enough advanced to need risking yet another Middle East war. Even America's own intelligence services aren't hot to trot.

The ayatollahs do not have the means to seriously hurt America. The payback would be too great. So they use third-parties like Hezbollah, who have their own agenda, to do niggling but annoying damage.

The ayatollahs are not the Iranian people. The embargo doesn't hurt the ayatollahs, but does hurt the people... who know that it's America who is hurting them.Thus the embargo's main effect to solidify the Iranian people's mistrust of America.

America's Iran policy is entirely driven by a need to appear "tough" for domestc consumption.

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
3.1.10  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Bob Nelson @3.1.9    4 weeks ago
"the folks who invented the Forever War"

???  Come on Bob, out with it - no reason to beat around the bush.

 
 
 
Ronin2
3.1.11  Ronin2  replied to  Bob Nelson @3.1.9    3 weeks ago

America is acting alone as the BS treaty Obama signed the snap back sanctions will never be agreed to in the UN Security Council- where sit China and Russia. Iran can violate the nuclear treaty however they want; w/o fear of repercussions. 

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
3.1.12  seeder  Bob Nelson  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @3.1.10    3 weeks ago

... beat around the Bush. Capitalized.

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
3.1.13  seeder  Bob Nelson  replied to  Ronin2 @3.1.11    3 weeks ago

Signed by Obama... and also all the civilized nations of the world.

"Civilized" is the key word.

Then an ego-centric reality-tv carnaval barker decided to pander to his xenophobic voter base by ginning up criticism of "those evil brown people". And thus took America closer to yet another Middle East war.

Après moi le déluge...

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
3.1.14  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Bob Nelson @3.1.12    3 weeks ago

LOL.  Clever.

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
3.1.15  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Bob Nelson @3.1.13    3 weeks ago
"Après moi le déluge..."

Not so fast, Louis (XV)

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
3.1.16  seeder  Bob Nelson  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @3.1.15    3 weeks ago

Ah, les canadiens... toujours du culture...

 
 
Loading...
Loading...

Who is online

Greg Jones
Kavika
Texan1211
Bob Nelson
Dulay
Freefaller
Freedom Warrior


45 visitors