Iran is demanding answers on Monday from the Indonesian government after its coast guard seized an Iranian-flagged vessel off the Indonesian coast over the weekend.
Indonesia's coast guard said the tanker was "caught red-handed" in an illegal ship to ship oil transfer with a Panamanian-flagged tanker. The Sunday incident comes after multiple international reports detailed the increasingly creative ways that both Iran and Venezuela are seeking to skirt US sanctions on their crude exports, often with China's help.
The Wilson Center's Jason Brodsky has noted that the Iranian-flagged MT Horse, which is one of the vessels involved, was "sent by Iran to Venezuela last year to deliver 2.1 million barrels of Iranian condensate." In this latest episode it appears a China-Iran venture to import or ship the Islamic Republic's "banned" oil.
The other tanker involved is the MT Freya. Both tankers had switched off their tracking transponders in an apparent effort to conceal their identity in a method called "ghosting".
"The tankers, first detected at 5:30 a.m. local time (2130 GMT on Jan. 23) concealed their identity by not showing their national flags, turning off automatic identification systems and did not respond to a radio call," Coast guard spokesman Wisnu Pramandita said.
Iran is dismissing the whole thing as a "technical issue" while demanding Indonesia provide details of why its tanker was seized.
Meanwhile, according to Reuters, the MT Freya which appeared ready to receive the Iranian tanker's load is managed by Shanghai Future Ship Management Co. The report says "a Chinese company directory found that the registered office address of Shanghai Future Ship Management Co came under another firm named Shanghai Chengda Ship Management." However, the companies issued no comment.
All 61 total crew members aboard both ships, reportedly made up mostly of Iranian and Chinese nationals, are currently being detained.