February 2022 Iran Tanker Tracking

On February 2, the International Group of P&I Clubs (IGP&I) – whose members provide maritime liability cover for approximately 90% of the global ocean-going tonnage – issued a joint circular describing recent deceptive shipping practices. Noting a rise in international and national trade sanctions violations, and specifically citing a dramatic rise in illicit Iranian oil exports, IGP&I described old and new techniques in: automatic identification system (AIS) manipulation; identity tampering; document falsifying, and; ship-to-ship (STS) cargo transferring.

All four main techniques are being used in the conveyance of oil from Iran to China, which continues to ignore all sanctions:


February 2022 - Barrels Per Day (bpd)

January 2022 - Barrels Per Day (bpd) 

December 2021 - Barrels Per Day (bpd)





























View Iran Tanker Tracking


UANI has been stressing these deceptive shipping practices to IGP&I members and the wider global shipping community for ten years. This month UANI identified a vessel with ultimate U.S. ownership engaging in multiple deceptive tactics in a bid to transport Iranian crude.

Throughout January and February, UANI tracked the vessel SUEZ RAJAN (IMO: 9524475), a vessel owned by Fleetscape, a subsidiary of Los Angeles-based Oaktree Capital Management.  SUEZ RAJAN was engaged in an STS transfer of Iranian oil with the crude oil tanker VIRGO (IMO 9236250).

Both vessels used several deceptive shipping practices in a bid to hide the origin of the oil.

First, on January 17, the tanker VIRGO loaded crude oil from Kharg Island, Iran, the seventh such instance since February 2021. UANI’s 2021 Year Review noted that VIRGO exported just under 10 million barrels of Iranian oil during the past year, making it a top-five worst offender in terms of foreign-flagged vessels carrying Iranian oil in 2021.

Clearly, as part of SUEZ RAJAN’s due diligence, the publicly available ties identified between VIRGO and Iran should have been considered by parties associated with the vessel prior to SUEZ RAJAN’s engagement in an STS transfer with VIRGO.  Indeed, this information is available for public view on the UANI website.


VIRGO loading crude oil at Kharg Island, Iran on January 17, 2022 (Source: Sentinel Hub)

When VIRGO was loading crude oil at Kharg Island, Iran, the vessel manipulated its AIS transponder from Iraqi waters.  This is a tactic UANI has repeatedly pointed out and is mentioned in the IGP&I circular. IGP&I writes, “Some sanctions breakers now falsify the position a vessel broadcasts via its AIS, to disguise the true location of the vessel…More sophisticated examples can produce very realistic signals and can only be identified through comparison with additional independent data such as satellite imagery, physical sighting of the vessel, or synthetic aperture radar (SAR) tracks.”

On January 31, 2022, VIRGO arrived in waters east of Singapore, where it anchored until engaging in an STS with SUEZ RAJAN beginning on February 12, 2022, at 1.87878° N, 104.7145° E, the exact location that the SUEZ RAJAN vessel was transmitting.


VIRGO engaged in an STS with SUEZ RAJAN on February 12, 2022 (Source: Sentinel Hub)

 On February 13, 2022, UANI identified SUEZ RAJAN and VIRGO still engaged in a STS transfer, but now at 1.94882° N, 104.71885° E, just north of where the STS occurred on February 12, 2022. According to MarineTraffic.com, SUEZ RAJAN was still anchored at 1.87878° N, 104.7145° E, about 3,445m away from where the STS was now taking place. However, satellite imagery shows no vessel at that location on the 13, illustrating that SUEZ RAJAN was manipulating its AIS transponder.

Prior to engaging in the STS transfer with VIRGO, SUEZ RAJAN claims to have engaged in a STS transfer with the floating storage/production vessel CS BRILLIANCE (IMO: 9153513), a vessel that is also suspected of storing Iranian gas and crude oil, involved on February 5-6, 2022, for approximately 14 hours, an amount of time that is not long enough for a significant transfer of oil. Following this reported STS, SUEZ RAJAN updated its draft to indicate it was fully laden, however, it was not. SUEZ RAJAN then proceeded to anchor in waters east of Singapore until it engaged in the STS with VIRGO on the 12th.


Identification of SUEZ RAJAN engaged in a STS transfer with CS BRILLIANCE on February 5, 2022 (Source: IHS Maritime)

But why would SUEZ RAJAN engage in an STS with VIRGO if it had already loaded oil from CS BRILLIANCE? This is an example of another deceptive practice that we see vessels repeatedly using to mask the origin of sanctioned cargo. During the STS with CS BRILLIANCE, the AIS transponders for both vessels were turned on. However, during the STS with VIRGO, the AIS transponders were turned off. As a result, the vessel can claim that the oil originated from CS BRILLIANCE, not VIRGO.

UANI provided Oaktree with information on the suspected STS transfer on February 15, 2022. The following day, the Associated Press reported on the STS. The AP confirmed, “Satellite images and maritime tracking data analyzed by the Associated Press correspond to the group [UANI]’s identification of the vessel allegedly involved and show them side-by-side off the coast of Singapore on Saturday.”

IGP&I correctly notes, “Being publicly linked with a sanction breaking activity by the press or some other public communication can be extremely damaging.” The above case involving  SUEZ RAJAN and VIRGO shows how multiple techniques can be used to minimize surveillance and detection through confusion or concealment of vessel’s identities, cargo, geographical location, and navigational activities, all in an attempt to transport sanctioned cargo. Such concealment poses risks for all players in the maritime industry. UANI will continue to highlight and publicize these deceptive practices, so the industry can work to enhance due diligence protocols.