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U.S. Sanctions Freighter for Delivering Attack Boats to Venezuela

A separate attempted shipment of Iranian attack boats aboard the base ship Makran, 2021 (Royal Danish Air Force)
A separate attempted shipment of Iranian attack boats (under covers on deck, center left) aboard the base ship Makran, 2021 (Royal Danish Air Force)

Published Oct 19, 2023 5:45 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Treasury has blacklisted an Iranian vessel and its charterers for allegedly transporting weapons to Venezuela, violating U.S. sanctions.

The sanctions target Iran's Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) for sending UAVs and fast attack boats to the Venezuelan government. According to the Treasury, MODAFL and a subsidiary, QAI, have exported the Mohajer ("Immigrant") family of surveillance UAVs to Venezuela, where the aircraft is known as the Arpia. It has also recently been in talks with Venezuelan officials about the sale of the larger and more capable Mohajer-6, which can carry guided weapons. 

Iran's defense minister, Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani, has allegedly overseen these transfers, as well as a joint oil-sale venture that finances the Iran-Venezuelan weapons trade. (Iran ships its excess volumes of light condensate to Venezuela, where it is blended with Venezuela's tarlike heavy crude to produce a more usable and salable product.)

According to the Treasury, the freighter Parnia has been used to carry Iranian defense exports, including a recent shipment of Peykaap III fast attack missile boats to Venezuela. The ship has been put on Treasury's blacklist as a property linked to MODAFL. 

Parnia is a 23,000 dwt freighter built in 1999. She is flagged in Iran and operated by Rahbaran Omid Darya Ship Management, a 62-vessel manager based in Tehran. As with much of the Iranian fleet, Parnia's port calls have been limited in recent years, and her last port state control inspection was in 2019. 

Parnia's alleged delivery would not be the only time that Iran attempted to transfer fast-attack boats to Venezuela. The base ship Makran, a former Suezmax tanker converted to support naval operations, carried seven Peykaap missile boats on her deck when she headed for Venezuela in 2021 (photo at top). However, the U.S. government applied heavy pressure on Venezuelan officials to cancel Makran's port call plans; the Iranian ship headed for Russia instead.