Iranian oil tankers are actively hiding their movements in the Persian Gulf, likely trying to evade impending U.S. sanctions that are already killing business in the petrostate, according to TankerTrackers.com, which tracks international oil storage and transport.
U.S. sanctions on Iran are scheduled to kick in Nov. 4. Companies that do business with or in Iran without a special permit will risk being cut off from the U.S. markets and banking system. So far, businesses seem unlikely to take that risk and most have begun cutting ties from Iranian markets, The New York Times reported.
September is a steep learning curve as Iranian tankers are going to great extremes to hide their activities in the Gulf waters. A lot of the vessels remain offline, but we have learned a great deal now about their patterns and movements. Green=known. Red=awaiting ID. #OOTT #Iran pic.twitter.com/WL2WHHgVNW
Effective sanctions will cripple Iran. About 70 percent of Iran’s exports in 2017 were either oil or petroleum related products. The Iranian government made around $50 billion on oil revenue. (RELATED: EU Pledges $20.7 Million To Iran To Offset Effects Of US Sanctions)
Iran has attempted similar schemes before, obscuring the movement of its oil tankers to maintain trading and supply routes with allies despite sanctions.
In the latter half of 2016, tankers transporting around 20 percent of Iran’s oil exports cut their radio-signal tracking systems or mislead officials about their cargo’s place of origin, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Turning off a ship’s tracking system is not against international or maritime laws. Some ships may do it temporarily to avoid detection by pirates.
“This tactic can also be used to hide the genuine details of a voyage so as to enable the breach of sanctions,” International Maritime Bureau Director Pottengal Mukundan told WSJ in 2017.
Iranian tankers were sending false satellite signals in 2012 to global tracking systems in order to cover the movement of ships from its ally Syria. The two countries often work together to avoid sanctions placed on either or both, Reuters reported.
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