MMEA Intercepts Two Merchant Ships With Sanctions Connections

The Silvana III off Malaysia, December 5 (MMEA)

Published Dec 10, 2019 6:58 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S.-sanctioned VLCC Silvana III allegedly fled Malaysian waters last week after officers from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) attempted to board, the agency said Monday. 

An MMEA maritime patrol spotted the Silvana III at a position about 40 nm off the coast of Kuala Kurao on December 5. When MMEA officers approached the vessel and attempted to board for an inspection, the tanker did not lower her accommodation ladder, but got under way and sailed away from the anchorage instead.

The Silvana III did not have permission to anchor in the area, according to the MMEA. The tanker is now wanted for violations of Malaysia's Merchant Shipping Ordinance of 1952.

An image from the scene taken by MMEA personnel (top) shows the Silvana III in laden condition, with Yokohama fenders, mooring lines and a pair of hoses arrayed and ready along her starboard side. 

Until last week, the Silvana III was being used as floating storage for IMO 2020-compliant bunker fuel at an anchorage in Singapore, according to S&P Global Platts. 

The Silvana III, ex name Tian Ma Zuo, is one of dozens of tankers affected by U.S. Treasury sanctions on her operators, Chinese state-owned Kunlun Shipping Company and Cosco Shipping Tanker (Dalian) Seaman and Ship Management Co. Ltd. According to the Treasury, these two companies (and several others) knowingly engaging in the transport of oil from Iran in defiance of the U.S. sanctions set in November 2018. 

On Sunday, the MMEA also took action to intercept a Vietnamese product tanker, the Viet Tin 01, which may have violated UN sanctions on North Korea. The Viet Tin 01 was recently detected by AIS in the port of Nampo; trading in petroleum products with North Korea is generally forbidden under sanctions on the nation's nuclear program. 

Last weekend, the Viet Tin 01 was found off the coast of Kota Tinggi and deemed a hazard to navigation. "The vessel and boat assets of the Tanjung Sedili Maritime Zone (ZMTS) assigned to the site had attempted to contact the tanker via radio and speakers, but no response was received and the vessel was suspected to have been abandoned," said Johor Maritime Director Aminuddin bin Haji Abdul Rashid. 

An MMEA tactical team boarded the Viet Tin 01 from a helicopter and took control of the vessel. Only the ship's 61-year-old chief engineer was on board, and he told officers that the ship had drifted to her current position.