A vessel seized last month by Indonesian authorities over a suspected ship-to-ship transfer with an Iranian tanker appears to be tied to a network previously sanctioned by the U.S. for illicit Iranian oil trade, Kharon found.

The Horse is owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) and is sanctioned by the U.S., while the Freya is owned and operated by companies with ties to actors sanctioned by the U.S. for their roles in Iranian oil trade. When Indonesian authorities apprehended the vessels, both anchored in waters west of Kalimantan on Indonesian Borneo, their flags were obscured and their location (AIS) transponders were turned off. The Freya vessel was spilling fuel amid the transfer, according to the Indonesian coast guard.

AIS turn-offs, flag manipulation and ship-to-ship transfers are all indicators of potential sanctions evasion, according to U.S. maritime advisories.

Iran asked for an explanation of the seizure; the Horse was part of a fleet sent by Tehran last year to deliver Iranian condensate to Venezuela when that country faced a shortage, Reuters reported in January. The Freya has delivered two cargoes to China in the past few months, the Reuters report said, citing an analyst with Refinitiv. China also sought details from Indonesia on the incident, as 25 of its nationals were among the detained crew, according to a media report.

The Freya is also connected to a broader network of actors sanctioned for Iran-related petroleum trade, according to a Kharon investigation.

ifmat - Seized vessel shows wider ties to illicit Iranian oil trade networks1

The sole shareholder of Freya’s operator, Moonlight Shipping Pte. Ltd., lists in Singapore corporate records a Dalian, China-based address associated with subsidiaries of Chinese shipping giant COSCO, including two that were sanctioned for Iran-related oil trade.

The vessel is owned by the Marshall Islands-listed company, Freya Limited, which shares an address in Singapore with the vessel’s operator, Moonlight Shipping Pte. Ltd., maritime records show.

Moonlight Shipping is owned by an individual who, in corporate records, listed a Dalian, China, based address identified by the U.S. Treasury Department as an address for COSCO Shipping Tanker (Dalian) Seaman And Ship Management Co., Ltd.

The company, a subsidiary of Chinese shipping giant COSCO, was sanctioned in 2019 alongside a number of other companies and their executives for transporting oil from Iran. The COSCO subsidiary was dissolved after it was sanctioned, though the address is still used by other subsidiaries of the shipping giant, corporate and maritime records show.

ifmat - Seized vessel shows wider ties to illicit Iranian oil trade networks2

Moonlight Shipping also operated the Themis until late January 2021, relinquishing its position in the vessel shortly after the Freya was seized, maritime records show. The Themis also shut off its AIS transponder for three days in December 2020 west of Kalimantan, near where the Horse and Freya were seized, according to maritime records. It was still operated by Moonlight Shipping at the time, records show.

Themis’ current operator, Shanghai Prosperity Ship Management, has a history of assuming management of vessels tied to networks implicated in Iran-related petroleum trade. It operates three vessels that had been operated by COSCO’s Dalian-based subsidiaries around the time they were sanctioned, maritime records show.

The Freya’s manager, Shanghai Future Ship Management Co. Ltd, does not appear on Chinese corporate records, but its listed address on corporate records matches that of Chengda Ship Management Co. Ltd.

Corporate records show that Chengda Ship Management also shares identifier information with Shanghai Prosperity Ship Management and Shanghai Xinchi Petrochemical Co., Ltd., a company whose beneficial owners and an executive were sanctioned at the same time as COSCO Shipping Tanker (Dalian) Seaman for engaging in oil transactions with Iran. The sanctioned individuals left their positions at the Xinchi Petrochemical around the time of the designation, records show.

Source » presstv