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Marine insurers cancel ‘spoofing’ Iran-linked ships

Although much attention has been paid to crude and product tankers engaged in subterfuge shipping practices for US-sanctioned Iranian cargoes, LPG cargoes have been largely going under the radar

Intervention by a New York-based non-governmental organisation has been followed by action from insurers removing some Iran-linked vessels from their books

UNITED Against Nuclear Iran has detailed to three marine insurance providers how vessels they cover are using two transponders to obfuscate their location while they load Iranian fuel oil, liquefied petroleum gas, gasoil, crude, and condensate.

The New York-based non-government organisation has written to the protection and indemnity providers between December 2020 and August 2021 about 11 tankers involved in deceptive practices.

“Some vessels are carrying two Automatic Identification System transponders on board,” UANI wrote in letters to West of England P&I, American Club and Skuld. “One AIS transponder is turned on as the vessel sails towards the United Arab Emirates, Oman or Iraq. Once the vessel reaches these waters, it is turned off, and the second transponder is turned on.

“The second transponder locks in a GPS position to appear that the vessel is anchored in the UAE, Oman, or Iraq, while the vessel is then at liberty to proceed to Iran.”

Since the UANI correspondence, six of the ships have been removed from the marine insurers.

But two crude tankers and three LPG carriers remain entered.

The American Club no longer provides cover for the Panama-flagged, 2001-built, 68,467 dwt product tanker Berenice Pride (IMO: 9216559), its database shows.

But three LPG carriers — Ganesha (IMO: 8519966), which was formerly known as Artemis, Fortuna (IMO: 9113379), and Venus 7 (IMO: 9007386) — remain entered with The American Club as of October 4.

UANI wrote twice to the company’s chief legal officer, in January and April, about the vessels.

The American Club has been approached for comment.

While much attention has been paid to crude and product tankers engaged in subterfuge shipping practices for US-sanctioned Iranian cargoes, LPG cargoes have been largely going under the radar.

Most LPG cargoes are destined for China, which along with Syria, is the main destination for Iranian-loaded crude and condensate.

They are part of a fleet of 180 vessels tracked shipping US-sanctioned Venezuelan and Iranian energy-related commodities without penalty from US authorities.

Another ship that remained entered, despite the UANI letter-writing campaign, is Hong Kong-flagged Caida Star (IMO: 9240885), a 2002-built, 46,362 dwt product tanker. It remains entered with Oslo-based Skuld, as of October 4, according to its database.

UANI wrote to Skuld about three ships in December, 2020, including the vessel Caida Star, providing a satellite image that purported to show the product tanker undertaking a ship-to-ship transfer with a US-sanctioned, Iran-flagged tanker in November, 2020, and later docked at a loading berth at Assaluyeh.

The Panama-flagged, aframax tankers Martina (IMO: 9254915) and Arina (IMO: 9189952) are no longer showing as entered with Skuld.

The vessel Martina, previously flagged with Malaysia and known as Nadezhda, also loaded a 729,000-barrel crude and condensate cargo via STS north east of Kharg Island, which then sailed to Qingdao, China, UANI said.

UANI said it “strongly suspected” Arina spoofed its location, and said all three tankers had disabled their AIS for periods, a practice identified by the US administration as deceptive and evasive.

West of England P&I continues to insure the Belize-flagged aframax Vergios (IMO: 9187435), which UANI said had been engaged in spooking activity. However, it has removed the vessel Hornet (IMO: 9197844), the vessel Bright Sonia (IMO: 9213296) and Virgo (IMO: 9236250), according to its database.

West P&I and Skuld have been approached for comment.


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