Indonesia detains Iranian and Panamanian oil tankers

– Iran, OPEC’s second-largest oil producer, tries to bypass US sanctions to transfer oil

By Busranur Begcecanli – January 25, 2021

Anadolu Agency – Indonesia seized an Iranian tanker and Panamanian ship suspected of trading illegal crude oil in the Southeast Asian nation’s waters, the Indonesian Maritime Security Agency said on Monday.

The tankers, Iranian-flagged MT Horse and Panamanian-flagged MT Freya, were suspected of multiple violations, including unveiling national flags, blocking their identification systems, anchoring illegally and the unlawful transfer of fuel between ships and spilling oil, the agency said.

Iran, OPEC’s second-largest oil producer, has tried to bypass US sanctions to transfer oil to countries in the region, like China, by changing vessel documents to hide the source country of its oil cargo.

US Treasury Department in June last year sanctioned over a hundred Iranian oil tankers and ships, including two tankers that delivered gasoline to Venezuela. It also warned countries against buying oil or products from Iran and North Korea.

Iran’s oil exports before May 2018, when the Trump administration reinstated sanctions on the country following withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord, were close to 3 million barrels per day (bpd), which plummeted below 500,000 bpd in the subsequent years.

In December, Iran instructed its oil ministry to prepare for the production and sale of crude oil at full capacity within three months. The country plans to boost its production to 4.5 million bpd as of March 2021 and also plans to export 2.3 million bpd of this output.

Iran’s economy, traditionally dependent on oil exports, has taken the heaviest toll with sanctions, as many countries cut down oil imports from Iran, fearing economic penalties from the US.

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