Diverted Iranian oil tanker suspected of illegal ship-to-ship transfers
THE Panama-flagged 1,899-dwt oil tanker Riah that Iran said it towed into its waters after a call for help over technical problems, is alleged to have been engaged in illegal ship-to-ship transfer
THE Panama-flagged 1,899-dwt oil tanker Riah that Iran said it towed into its waters after a call for help over technical problems, is alleged to have been engaged in illegal ship-to-ship transfer.
The tanker has not made any port calls over the past 12 months, has 27 days of 'dark' activities and met 55 times with another vessel, trading patterns generally associated with covert ship-to-ship transfers, data analysis indicates, reported London's Lloyd's List.
Speculation that the 1988-built tanker, valued at US$650,000, had been hijacked was sparked after reports the vessel diverted to Iran on July 14 and turned off its automatic identification system (AIS) transponder after sailing through the Strait of Hormuz.
Analysis from Tel Aviv-based maritime risk intelligence provider Windward showed the tanker had been regularly shuttling between the Gulf of Oman and the United Arab Emirates for months, and frequently switched off its automatic identification system, which transmits its location.
The practice, labelled 'going dark', is often used by tankers loaded with Iranian crude, condensate, fuel oil and liquefied petroleum gas to avoid detection as well as US sanctions. Just like ship-to-ship transfers, which alongside going dark, render the origin, destination and loading of cargoes unclear.
'It was receiving fuel from an unknown source offshore Fujairah via dark ship-to-ship (STS) transfers, and then transhipped it to other tankers which usually carried it to Somalia and Yemen,' Windward said in a note.
Iranian forces approached the vessel and towed it to its waters after receiving its request for help in Gulf waters, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi reported the semi-official ISNA news agency.
UAE-based Prime Tankers, which is listed as the beneficial owner and commercial operator of the ship, told Lloyd's List that it had sold the ship to a company called Mouj Al Bahar, also based in the UAE, in 2018. A UAE official earlier said the ship was 'neither UAE owned nor operated', and 'did not emit a distress call'.
According to Panamanian registration documents Riah is registered to an entity called Riah Shipping & Trading Incorporated. The Panama registry reveals that company is also the owner of a similar tanker, Hayla, that has not signalled its position since April 4, and has been noted sailing in the same area and vicinity as the sister vessel.
While the Panama Registry confirmed the vessel's registration, it said the tanker will be referred to its legal department for further investigation, given the unusual activity.