Blacklisted Iranian Tanker Completes Journey to Syria

The Adrian Darya off Tartus (John Bolton / Digitalglobe)

Published Sep 6, 2019 9:43 PM by The Maritime Executive

The blacklisted Iranian tanker Adrian Darya 1 has arrived just off the port of Tartus, Syria, after a circuitous journey across the Mediterranean. An unconfirmed report indicates that she has now delivered at least half of her cargo, a violation of EU and U.S. sanctions. 

The Adrian Darya 1 was seized by Royal Marines on July 4 at a position off Gibraltar, and she was held for more than a month on suspicion of violating EU sanctions on the government of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. She carries a cargo of about two million barrels of Iranian crude, and UK and U.S. authorities asserted that she was intending to deliver it to the refinery at Baniyas, Syria. 

Gibraltar freed the Adrian Darya 1 on August 16 after allegedly receiving assurances from Tehran that she would not go to Syria. When she departed, her crew set her AIS-broadcast destination as Kalamata, Greece, but then changed it several times as she made her way east. She stopped broadcasting on Monday at a position off Syria, and U.S. authorities released a satellite image showing her just off Tartus on Friday evening. Tartus is the home of an oil terminal and a large Russian naval base; Russia supports both the Syrian government and the right to trade with Iran. 

"Anyone who said the Adrian Darya-1 wasn’t headed to Syria is in denial. Tehran thinks it’s more important to fund the murderous Assad regime than provide for its own people. We can talk, but Iran’s not getting any sanctions relief until it stops lying and spreading terror!" said U.S. national security advisor John Bolton in a twitter message. 

As part of its "maximum pressure" campaign against the Iranian government, the United States has implemented strict sanctions on the Iranian oil, shipping and financial services sectors. In furtherance of this effort, it has designated the Iranian government's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - a defense agency with extensive business interests throughout the Iranian economy - as a foreign terrorist organization. This means that for the United States, doing business with IRGC-connected cargoes or vessels is equivalent to assisting terrorism. The U.S. State Department has made clear that this view applies to the maritime community, including individual seafarers who work aboard vessels carrying Iranian oil. The department has blacklisted the Adrian Darya 1's master, Capt. Akhilesh Kumar, for his role in her voyage. 

Though they receive less public scrutiny than the Adrian Darya 1, other Iranian tankers routinely deliver oil to Syria via the Suez Canal. Just prior to the Adrian Darya's arrival, the tanker Sylvia 1 completed unloading and headed back through the Canal towards Iran, according to AIS data.