Iran, Tanzania and Falsifying AIS Signals to Trade with Syria

Published Dec 10, 2012 5:03 PM by The Maritime Executive

Iranian tankers have been sending false Automatic Identification Systems  (AIS) signals and the government of Tanzania is right in the middle of the investigative probe.

Eariler this year, the U.S. Treasury blacklisted the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) along with 58 of its vessels that were said to belong to the Iranian Government. NITC is a subsidiary of the National Iranian Oil Company, which was privatized in 2009. According to the Iranian government NITC is owned by the funds managing pension for 5 million Iranians.

NITC is the largest tanker company in the Middle East and 4th largest in the world. The company has a capacity of 11 million tons per year. As of 2012, NITC had 40 tankers of 100,000 to 300,000 tons. In 2013, NITC is projected to have 74 tankers of all sizes including a number of VLCCs.

In recent weeks Iran and Syria have been accused of sending false signals in order to trade with one another. Right in the middle of the falsification is Tanzania, which said it deregistered 36 Iranian tankers in July after it found that NITC was flying its national flag.

Tanzania has also asked the U.S. to provide it details on a Dubai company named Philtex, which is said to have registered Iranian ships on behalf of the Zanzibar Maritime Authority without knowledge of the Tanzanian government. NITC has supposedly changed the name and flags on many of its vessels in order to obtain financing and insurance on cargoes.

The U.S. Embassy sent the Tanzania government a letter in October protesting that it had registered another 17 Iranian tankers which had been deregistered in Tuvalu. The U.S. has continued to mount an international campaign to deprive Iran from oil revenues, but recently it has been a cat and mouse game on the high seas with Iranian tankers sending false AIS signals and somehow being in two places at the same time. While the Tanzanian government says it will investigate the situation concerning Iranian ships flying its flag, it also told the U.S. government that it intends to keep relationships with the Iranian government.