China-Owned Tanker Carrying 2M Barrels Of Iranian Oil Caught 'Ghosting'

China continues to play a large part in preventing Trump's desire to take Iran's crude exports down to zero, despite a noticeable drop on its Iran oil imports over the summer after the end of the US waiver program; however, more evidence has emerged that the sanctions evasion continues. A Chinese owned tanker believed carrying about 2 million barrels of oil has been caught 'ghosting' according to ship tracking data:

While in the Indian Ocean heading toward the Strait of Malacca, the very large crude carrier (VLCC) Pacific Bravo went dark on June 5, shutting off the transponder that signals its position and direction to other ships, ship-tracking data showed.

Reuters says an American official has put ports in Asia on notice, warning them not to allow the Pacific Bravo to dock in violation of US sanctions

Illustrative image via Economic Times

Besides 'ghosting' — a common tactic used in Iran sanctions busting — the tanker also appears to have tried concealing its identity with a name change, on July 18 suddenly presenting on global trackers as the VLCC Latin Ventura and appearing off Port Dickson, Malaysia.

Tracking data shows this was nearly 1000 miles from where the Pacific Bravo had last been signalling. Reuters describes the gambit was easily uncovered, with US authorities accusing the ship of evading sanctions:

But both the Latin Venture and the Pacific Bravo transmitted the same unique identification number, IMO9206035, issued by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), according to data from information provider Refinitiv and VesselsValue, a company that tracks ships and vessel transactions...

Since IMO numbers remain with a ship for life, this indicated the Latin Venture and the Pacific Bravo were the same vessel and suggested the owner was trying to evade Iranian oil sanctions.

The investigation found the super tanker is owned by Kunlun Holdings, a company based in Shanghai, also with offices in Singapore, which didn't comment for the report. 

Source: VesselsValue via Reuters

However, the valuable Iranian crude cargo, with an estimated worth of about $120 million at current prices, does appear to have been offloaded at an unknown location in Asia.

When under the name Pacific Bravo, the ship’s transmission data showed it's tanks were full, but as Reuters reports, the moment it "reappeared 42 days later as the Latin Venture, it was empty, according to Refinitiv and VesselsValue data."