17 Iranian “Ghost Tankers” Deliver $1 Billion Oil to Syria

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17 Iranian ‘Ghost Tankers’ Bring Oil Worth $1 Billion to Syria, states a Haaretz news source.

Dangerous ship-to-ship transfers

Defying Iran sanctions with dangerous ship-to-ship transfers and transceivers turned off, eight tankers made 17 deliveries of oil to Syria in the last six months. Experts warn: There’s no oversight, this is a ticking ecological time bomb

After the U.S.’ departure from the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement, then-President Donald Trump revived the sanctions on Iran’s oil exports. His successor, President Joe Biden, had considered removing the sanctions to smooth the way for rejoining the nuclear accords, but they remain in effect.

Syria and its revenue

The oil and gas industry was a major source of revenue for Syria prior to its civil war that broke out in 2011. Over a decade of fighting reduced production by 95 percent forcing the Assad regime to rely almost entirely on Iranian tankers as a lifeline. However, the imports fall short of Syrian needs with Damascus and other major cities suffering frequent blackouts, which in turn have paralyzed its economy.
Attacks against these shipments have been reported over the past several years including Israeli drone strikes on the Iranian tankers outside the Baniyas port, and sabotage against the underwater pipelines transferring oil from the ships to the shore. The latter has led to oil spills and slowed the energy supply to Syria.
The tankers, most of which sail under the Iranian flag, are the Daran, Sam 121, Lotus, Arman 114, Shadi, Veronica, Sirvan Sabou and Ares. Daran is the smallest of the eight tankers, with a capacity of 316,308 barrels. The largest is Arman 114, which can carry over 2 million barrels.

Iran attempts to deliver the oil covertly

Due to the sanctions, Iran attempts to deliver the oil covertly. The tankers’ journey takes them through the Suez Canal in Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea, which requires them to turn on their transceivers – that broadcast their location to vessel traffic services using the automatic identification system (AIS). The system identifies the vessel, its speed, direction and draft, with the latter used to determine the cargo’s weight.

Over the past six months, the price of a barrel of oil has ranged between $70 and $80, valuating a single delivery in the tens of millions of dollars. The combined value of the oil Iran has shipped to Syria during this time is estimated at $1.25 billion.

Eight groundings, collisions or near-misses involving tankers

Reuters found that in 2022 there were at least eight groundings, collisions or near-misses involving tankers carrying sanctioned crude or oil products – the same number as the previous three years combined.
Iranian “ghost tankers” sailing adjacent to Israeli gas fields in the Mediterranean, also have, per one environmental group, the potential to lead to a violent incident and ecological disaster – amid the ongoing, mostly secret, naval war between Jerusalem and Tehran. Israel has reportedly attacked numerous Iranian tankers in the Red Sea on their way to Syria in an effort to block the flow of funds to Hezbollah. In response, Iran has attacked freighters belonging to Israeli businessmen in the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea.
During the two weeks that it wandered between Syria and Cyprus, the tanker unloaded oil to another ship, which then took the oil to Syria, causing several more oil spills.  The incident revealed the extent to which Israel was not prepared to deal with major oil spills. The Environmental Protection Ministry suffers from a lack of equipment and staff, relying heavily on volunteers.

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Source: Haaretz


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