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Iranian VLCC Suffers Mechanical Casualty in Red Sea

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NITC tanker (file image via state media)

By The Maritime Executive 2019-08-21 20:38:15

The Iranian oil tanker Helm has suffered a mechanical casualty in the Red Sea off the coast of Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, according to the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC). 

The 320,000 dwt VLCC made a distress call in the early hours of Tuesday morning, NITC said, but the company did not release the nature of the vessel's difficulties. No injuries, pollution or flooding were reported, and NITC said that both the crew and the vessel are currently safe. Work to fix the problem is ongoing, the company said. 

“Fortunately, the ship’s crew are in a safe condition,” said Akbar Jabal-Ameli, technical director of the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), speaking to Mehr News. “All necessary measures are being taken to fix the problem. The ship’s crew are in full preparedness and are currently fixing the defect."

As of Wednesday night, the Helm's AIS tracking showed her drifting at 1.4 knots in the main Red Sea shipping lanes. 

The Helm (ex names Hirmand, Honesty, Millionaire) was added to the U.S. Treasury's blacklist in 2013 during the previous round of economic sanctions on Iran, and like all NITC tankers her name still appears on the list.

Grace 1 continues her journey

The Iranian-controlled VLCC Adrian Darya 1, ex name Grace 1, was recently released from British custody in Gibraltar and is now making her way east through the Mediterranean. The U.S. assesses that at the time she was seized in early July, she was bound eastwards for Syria in violation of an EU ban on Syrian oil imports and a U.S. ban on Iranian oil exports. Her AIS broadcast indicates that she is now headed eastwards to Kalamata, Greece, a small port lacking the water depth to accommodate a laden VLCC alongside a pier. Greek officials say that they have not yet received a formal request from the Adrian Darya or her operator to call at a Greek port.

Greece's foreign ministry emphasized Wednesday that the Greek government will not assist the Adrian Darya 1 to deliver her cargo to Syria. "We have sent a clear message that we would not want to facilitate the trafficking of this oil to Syria in any instance,” Varvitsiotis said in an interview with Greek television network ANT1. He did not rule out the possibility that the Darya could attempt to anchor in Greek waters.