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Iran Changes Names Of Tankers To Confuse Sanctions Monitors

A crew member takes pictures with a mobile phone on Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya 1, previously named Grace 1, sits anchored after the Supreme Court of the British territory lifted its detention order, in the Strait of Gibraltar, Spain, August 18, 2019

Defiant Iran has renamed three more of its tankers to skip the U.S. sanctions, and sell oil clandestinely, Kpler a data intelligence firm told Radio Farda.

The Islamic Republic had earlier changed the name of its supertanker, Grace 1, to Adrian Darya, to sidestep a U.S. warrant to seize the vessel.

According to Kpler, to avoid sanctions, vessels carrying Iranian cargoes have adopted new strategies such as switching off their transponders or changing names.

"Three VLGCs (Very Large Gas Carrier) loaded with Iranian cargo changed the name in the past weeks. Sea Dragon changed her name to Nexo, Ming Zhu changed her name to Artemis, and Gas Infinity changed her name to Echo Star," Kpler told Radio Farda.

The drama started two months ago when Iranian supertanker, Grace 1, sailed for 23,000 kilometers (roughly more than 14,000 miles), circled the African continent, and ultimately was seized in Gibraltar on suspicion of carrying oil for Syrian refineries sanctions by EU.

Owners of Grace 1 changed the vessel’s name to Adrian Darya 1 after its release, in the hope of reaching its destination.

It is not clear if Adrian Darya has delivered its oil to Syria or not. Iran’s foreign ministry claimed on September 9 that the tanker had unloaded it cargo in an unnamed port, but said on September 10 that its analysis of satellite imagery indicates it is still loaded.

Meanwhile, Kpler says that Iran also transfers oil cargos from one tanker to another in the middle of the sea, to avoid possible punishment.

Based on Kpler's latest report, Iran managed to load 181,000 barrels of oil per day in August, and probably delivered 138,000 barrels to China, in the last month.

"We have reason to believe that there may have been an additional VLCC [Very Large Crude Carriers] discharge into China from Iran in August; however we are unable to get confirmation yet and so have not included it in our assessments," Kpler reports.

If verified, Kpler says, Iran should have delivered between sixty thousand to 198,000 barrels of extra oil to China, during August.

Iran, as a rule, stores parts of its oil in China. Therefore, it is complicated to decide whether the cargos were exported to China, or merely stored there.

In the meantime, Iran has managed in August to deliver 22,000 barrels of oil per day to Turkey, and 33,000 barrels to Syria.

However, the latest data show that transferring Iranian oil to the tankers in the Persian Gulf dropped by half in August, compared with the previous month.

Iran used to export 2.5 million of crude per day before Washington reimposed sanctions on Tehran in 2018.