Iran’s ‘Ghost Ships’ Evade Oil Sanctions By Turning Off Trackers

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Originally appeared at ZeroHedge

In anticipation of the US sanctions against Iranian oil exports, which were reimposed by the Trump Administration on Monday (along with additional sanctions on everything from Iranian shipping to banking and insurance), oil tankers bearing the Iranian flag have embraced a stealthy approach to keeping the oil flowing: They’re ‘ghosting’ international trackers by turning off their transponders, rendering the ships impossible to track by anything aside from visual cues.

Iran's 'Ghost Ships' Evade Oil Sanctions By Turning Off Trackers

Iran, which is already suffering from a drop in exports to 1.8 million barrels per day, down from 2.8 million barrels at the peak, is doing everything it can to keep the crude (along with 300,000 barrels of condensate) flowing. Though Iran received a temporary reprieve from the Trump Administration’s sanctions waivers granted to eight of its biggest customers, those waivers are temporary, and they were also granted with the understanding that the applicants would gradually reduce their reliance on Iranian oil.

That means the kingdom is going to need to do everything it can to help any and all customers avoid detection, and possible US sanctions (which could include barring a given country’s largest banks from accessing dollars and the global dollar-based financial system). Already, the ghosting method is proving surprisingly effective: In an interview with Sputnik, the founders of one of the most popular oil-tanker tracking services, tankertracker.com, have been “utterly exhausted” trying to track Iranian ships.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen a blanket black-out. It’s very unique,” said TankerTrackers co-founder Samir Madani.

“Iran has around 30 vessels in the Gulf area, so the past 10 days have been very tricky, but it hasn’t slowed us down. We are keeping watch visually,” said co-founder Lisa Ward.

Meanwhile, the “special purpose vehicle” – a kind of SWIFT alternative designed explicitly to help European companies avoid detection by the US – is helping to facilitate clandestine payments for Iranian crude, eliminating another methodology for tracking who, exactly, is buying Iranian crude. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has said Iran will defy US sanctions, though both sides have insisted that they remain “open” to negotiations surrounding a new deal.

Iran has also employed another strategy from the pre-Iran deal era. The Republica is keeping six ships with a total capacity of 11 million barrels anchored offshore, allowing the “floating storage tankers” to make speedy deliveries to try and mitigate buyers’ anxieties as, once they leave port, the ships will be essentially impossible to track.

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  • micromgm1-1

    It is utterly ridiculous that such a “mighty” empire – the USA – fears and hates Iran so much.
    The USA is clearly under-the-influence … of the masonic Zionists.

    • Trump scrapped Iran nuclear deal because of Netanyahu, this was even confirmed by Israel.
      But regardless Israel, US are afraid to put full scale sanctions on Iran as oil price would surge and it doesn’t fit to US plans because:
      1, global economy crisis would hit due to high oil prices. It would be especially hard in Europe, which is already not very happy with Trump’s policy of sanctions and scrapping deals and US backed dictatorship of EU bureaucrats and Adolpha Merkel and nongovernmental think-tanks and organizations (aka Soros’s minions) especially because of immigration and economy stagnation.
      2, Russian oil revenues would surge, practically negating impact of US sanctions
      3, Iran would attempt to attack Saudi tankers which could cause collapse in world industry and transport depending on regular oil supplies.

      4, China wouldn’t have any reason to follow US sanction and wouldn’t follow them so US decided to give China a “waiver” just to save own face (LOL)

      So basically so called “toughest embargo on Iran ever” is more empty proclamation and attempt to save Trump’s face then real embargo as US army is not powerful enough to secure real embargo on Irani oil.

    • Sinbad2

      It’s all about the US dollar, it’s under threat and if enough oil is sold in non US dollars, the US economy will collapse, as the dollar value plummets and inflation goes berserk.

  • DaBoiiiii

    Typo in the article, Iran is not a kingdom.

  • Garga

    Another Iranian tanker – Sanchi – which burnt and sunk is also in the list of the sanctioned vessels, along with the Tat Bank which is closed for 6 years… Where does the US government gather their intelligence from? I mean aside from the people who didn’t set foot on Iranian soil for 4 decades.

    The spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said “Americans think their sanction will be more effective if their list is longer”.

  • Brother Ma

    So which ships are hard to track once they leave port? The buyer’s ships or the floating Iranian container ship warehouses?
    Why is it hard to track? If you know where the container ships are anchored then it is easy to track who buys by sailing up to them and seeing who buys. This will only work if the container ships are constantly anchoring in diff places and were not known as storage ships from the beginning.

  • R Trojson

    Iranians are again proven idiots. Clearly the US and allies have no satellites capable of monitoring shipping. Even easier just detect ships that have turned their transponders off. How about all ships under Iranian flag. For Heavens sake the tankers are “speeding” along at 20mph and will take weeks to deliver and unload.

  • Bill Wilson

    What a load of bullshit. Ships can’t turn off their transponders since it violates international laws for safe navigation on the seas. Firms that insure ships and cargoes require those to be on at all times and are regularly inspected to ensure they are in good working order.

    • Sinbad2

      The law!
      When has the US ever obeyed international law?
      The Iranian Government will supply the insurance, so AIG will lose money, ha ha.