Report: Tankers Under Way to Lebanon With Sanctioned Iranian Fuel

Iranian tankers have previously broken U.S. sanctions to deliver fuel to Venezuela, above (courtesy Venezuelan Government)

Published Sep 1, 2021 10:30 PM by The Maritime Executive

A sanctions-busting shipment of fuel is under way from Iran to Lebanon, with two more to follow, according to satellite tracking consultancy TankerTrackers.com. 

The firm reported Wednesday that the first tanker shipment is now under way for the Suez Canal. The second tanker has departed port but has not left Iranian waters, and the third is now getting under way. The consultancy has not released the names of the vessels involved. 

The controversial fuel supply deal was arranged by the U.S.-designated terrorist organization Hezbollah, the most powerful political party and military force in Lebanon. The country faces a severe shortage of gasoline and diesel amidst an ongoing economic crisis, and Hezbollah made arrangements with the U.S.-sanctioned government of Iran - the militant Shiite group's primary foreign sponsor - for the supply of much-needed fuel. 

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah announced the deal in mid-August, and he warned Israel and the United States against any interference with the Iranian tankers carrying the fuel. Iran's petroleum exports are sanctioned by the United States, and American authorities have gone to great lengths to identify and penalize shipowners who facilitate the movement of Iranian oil. Israel has been engaged in a shadow war with Iran and Hezbollah for years, including frequent Israeli airstrikes on Hezbollah positions in Syria and alleged covert attacks on Iranian tankers. 

"Despite the siege and sanctions on Iran and the pressures on it, it has never abandoned its allies and has not let down its friends," Nasrallah said. 

On Wednesday, Lebanese energy minister Raymond Ghajar told journalists that the government has not received a request from Hezbollah for permission to import fuel. "We do not have information. Permission was not requested from us. This is all I am saying," he told Reuters. 

Hezbollah may not require permission: the organization has historically had considerable influence over the operations of the Port of Beirut, the central hub for the country's dry and liquid bulk imports. The extent of its involvement at the port came under scrutiny after the devastating explosion at a storage warehouse on August 4, 2020, which killed more than 200 people and destroyed the surrounding waterfront.