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U.S. Sanctions Tankers and Operator Citing STS Efforts to Hide Iran's Oil

tanker Iranian oil
Young Yong OFAC says has changed names twice since it went aground in 2022 (Indonesian Navy photo)

Published Apr 4, 2024 3:03 PM by The Maritime Executive

 

The United States is continuing its efforts to increase the pressure on Iran and the oil trade which is reported to supply up to 90 percent of the country’s income. Citing the use of monies from oil sales to support military efforts including the war in Ukraine, the U.S. Treasury Department today blocked 13 tankers and a Dubai-based shipping company that it says have been actively involved in the trade.

“We are focused on disrupting Iran’s ability to finance its terrorist proxy and partner groups and support to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. The U.S. has also previously accused companies of selling Iranian oil to help fund the Houthi militants in Yemen.

Today’s action centers around a Dubai-based company called Oceanlink Maritime DMCC. Treasury and the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) report Oceanlink operates a fleet of over a dozen vessels which they content are “deeply involved in the shipment of Iranian commodities.”  The published list of blocked vessels shows ships registered in Comoros, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Cook Islands, and one flagged in Panama. The U.S. has recently called on Panama to remove tankers involved in the sanctioned trade from its registry.

Among the vessels managed by Oceanlink, OFAC reports the Hecate, a 309,000 dwt crude oil tanker registered in Comoros, recently loaded Iranian commodities valued at over $100 million via a ship-to-shore transfer with the Dover (297,000 dwt), a tanker registered in Iran for the National Iranian Tanker Company. Both the Dover and Iran’s Sepehr Energy which they believe was behind these shipments were previously sanctioned by the U.S. for their role in selling Iranian commodities on behalf of Iran’s military.

The U.S. also used today’s announcement to illustrate the “shell game” taking place in an attempt to obscure the source of the oil. They updated previous sanctions and the specific listing of a tanker previously operating as the Young Yong (306,000 dwt), a crude oil tanker built in 2001 and registered in Djibouti which made headlines in October 2022 when it went aground near Singapore. The U.S. had already accused the vessel of being involved in an elaborate smuggling operation.

In the new update, OFAC reports to possibly obfuscate its identity, the Young Yong changed its name to Saint Light but has also been tracked operating under the name Stellar Oracle. Using this later name OFAC reports on March 27, 2024, the vessel was involved in a ship-to-ship transfer of over $100 million worth of Iranian oil with the Hawk, a tanker operated by the National Iranian Tanker Company. Five days earlier, OFAC reports the Hawk had loaded the same cargo from yet another sanctioned tanker the Kohana

OFAC said all the vessels were being blocked for all having shipped Iranian commodities, some as recently as March of this year. They said the vessels were being used to provide material support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force.