Stop the Hop II: The Ghost Armada Grows

Updated: September 1, 2021

In November 2020, UANI identified 70 foreign vessels suspected of involvement in the illicit transfer of Iranian crude oil and/or petroleum products. Just ten months later, the list has grown to 134. This suspected rogue armada, distinct from but complementing Iran’s own NITC tanker fleet, has skirted U.S. sanctions and exploited regulatory loopholes to ship millions of barrels of Iranian oil.

One of the most frequently deployed tactics in evading oil sanctions is “flag hopping.” This involves the repeated switching of a ship’s “flag” – which permits legitimate global travel and docking rights – to different national registries. Often accompanied by the formation of new shell and front companies, ownership and name changes, and even alterations to ships’ physical markings, flag-hopping is a blight on legitimate maritime commerce.

Certain vessel owners are intentionally exploiting flag registries, many of which do not have the capabilities to track the history of vessels or even perform what ought to be rudimentary compliance scans.  In fact, some registries are increasingly reliant on UANI for assistance in identifying the suspicious and often illicit behavior of vessels absent their own tracking capabilities and resources.

For example, in a Guardian report from March 23, 2021, the Cook Islands flag registry acknowledged to the journalist, “we just do what they [UANI] tell us.”

In conveying our findings to the world’s flag registries, a majority have taken appropriate measures and de-flagged these vessels. Others are less responsive, taking months to ‘investigate’ while allowing the vessels to engage in further illicit activity under their flag’s registration.

The Panama Maritime Authority (AMP)

Of the 134 vessels listed below, almost 40% are currently flagged by the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP), the world’s biggest and most famous flag registry.

sth2

UANI first contacted AMP in August 2020.  As detailed in 10 letters sent over a period of 8 months, AMP has so far de-flagged a total of just 3 from 46 vessels of concern.

AMP currently leads as the top flag state for 2020, with over 9,596 ships registered as of October 2020. Given this fact, it might be anticipated that AMP would be a leader in de-flagging vessels that breach sanctions or tamper with vessel-tracking systems. Indeed, AMP director-general Rafael Cigarruista has asserted that AMP is proactive on these issues. 

However, UANI has serious doubts regarding the seriousness of Panama’s flag authority on these issues.

By way of illustration, we first alerted AMP to a suspected ship-to-ship (“STS”) transfer of Iranian oil with the Panama-flagged vessel BRIGHT SONIA in October 2020. BRIGHT SONIA remains flagged by Panama today:

Bright Sonia

Ship Details: BRIGHT SONIA, flagged by Panama (Source: Marine Traffic)

In the following six months, from October 2020 to April 2021, the Bright Sonia is suspected to have engaged in two more STS transfers, transporting an estimated total of 2,322,203 barrels of Iranian crude oil. Taking into account the substantial discount Iran offers for crude sales, we estimate this single vessel has filled regime coffers to the tune of $91,000,000.  A big chunk of these proceeds will end up being disbursed for regime terrorist funding, Iranian proxy wars, and Iran’s malign intelligence activities.  In neglecting to de-flag BRIGHT SONIA, AMP has seriously abrogated its responsibility.

Responsible Flaggers

On the other hand, there are many responsible authorities such as the St. Kitts and Nevis International Ship Registry (SkanReg), which have de-flagged all eight vessels identified by UANI. Other notable registries with a good track record include the Tanzania-Zanzibar International Register of Shipping, the Maritime Administration of Gabonese Republic, and the Tuvalu Ship Registry.

The Rogue Armada: The List

UANI has compiled a list of vessels suspected to have been involved in the transfer of Iranian crude oil and/or petroleum products, so that the entire community of flag registries may act in concert to “stop the hop.”

In its reply to UANI the Tuvalu Ship Registry suggested: “it is our opinion that vessel registries should make public the information they have relating to vessels and owners that seek to support the Iranian / Syrian regime just as how TSR has done. This will save time and cut out the bureaucracy of signing agreements and surely result in a more effective way of stamping out “flag-hopping”.

UANI agrees and we intend to update this list monthly. We encourage all flag states to routinely check this list to confirm whether vessels suspected of involvement in the illicit transfer of Iranian oil are seeking to register under their flags.

 

 

VESSEL NAME

Current Flag

FORMER FLAG 1*

FORMER FLAG 2*

FORMER FLAG 3*

  1.  

9157765

ABYSS

VIETNAM

     
  1.  

9194969

ADDRESS GAS

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9273052

AFRA CROWN (EX LAFIZA, GULF VOYAGER, DELOS VOYAGER)

LIBERA

GABON

PANAMA

 

  1.  

9172583

ALANA (ex FALCON PRIDE)

LIBERIA

     
  1.  

9111644

ALBA SUN (ex EAGLE BEAUMONT)

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9244635

AMAK (ex BERWICK)

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9247986

AMENITY (EX: JACOB)

PANAMA

 

 

 

  1.  

9273337

ANAHI (ex AMFITRITI)

?

ST KITTS & NEVIS

TANZANIA

 
  1.  

9200964

ANASTASIA I

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9354521

ANHONA (EX ARAMIS)

BELIZE

LIBERIA

   
  1.  

9189952

ARINA

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9127033

ARROW

PANAMA

TUVALU

   
  1.  

9248473

ARZOYI (ex ADS SERENADE)

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9162928

ASTRA (EX: HURON)

GABON

CAMEROON

 

 

  1.  

9176761

ATLANTA (ex PELAGOS)

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9133070

AUDREY (ex MOXON)

MARSHALL ISLANDS

     
  1.  

9123192

AVENTINE

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9216559

BERENICE PRIDE (ex S TRADER, ANN, LAUREN)

PANAMA

LIBERIA

 

 

  1.  

9262168

BERG 1 (ex FOLEGANDROS I)

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9198094

BLUE STAR

RUSSIA

     
  1.  

9166417

BRADLEY (EX: SEAGER)

PANAMA

 

 

 

  1.  

9582726

BRAVELY LOYALTY

SINGAPORE

     
  1.  

9213296

BRIGHT SONIA

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9240885

CAIDA STAR

HONG KONG

     
  1.  

9183271

CALYPSO

CAMEROON

 

 

 

  1.  

9002491

CAPE GAS

COMOROS

     
  1.  

9258870

CAROLINA

MARSHALL ISLANDS

 

 

 

  1.  

9229439

CERES I (ex PACIFIC ALFA)

SAO TOME & PRINCIPE (FALSE)

     
  1.  

9265744

CHAO XING (EX: SEA VIXEN, VIOLETA)

TOGO

TANZANIA

ST KITTS & NEVIS

 

  1.  

9081837

CLARA

?

COMOROS

   
  1.  

9153513

CS BRILLIANCE

MARSHALL ISLANDS

 

 

 

  1.  

9255933

DAISY 2 (ex TANIA)

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9193721

DANUTA I (ex SAPPHIRE I)

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9203277

DAZZLE (ex VERA)

SAMOA (FALSE)

COMOROS

   
  1.  

9341512

DELPHINE (ex VALENTINA)

PALAU

SIERRA LEONE

   
  1.  

9005065

DIANA (ex APHRODITE)

PANAMA

THAILAND

   
  1.  

9052331

DOLPHIN (ex CLARA)

SAO TOME & PRINCIPE (FALSE)

     
  1.  

9194139

DOMINAR (ex SEINE)

PALAU

     
  1.  

9149251

EASTERN ONE

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9134294

ECHO STAR

BELIZE

     
  1.  

9199828

ELISA SEA (ex ARK RESCUE)

?

GABON

TANZANIA

 
  1.  

9256468

ELSA

BELIZE

 

 

 

  1.  

9196644

ELVA (ex EKATERINA)

SAMOA (FALSE)

ST KITTS & NEVIS

   
  1.  

9212864

EM LONGEVITY

SINGAPORE

 

 

 

  1.  

9231224

EMERALD (ex EBN BATUTA)

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9192258

ENCORE

TANZANIA

 

 

 

  1.  

9118393

ENERGY STAR

THAILAND

     
  1.  

9203265

ERMIS (ex TIANA)

COOK ISLANDS

TANZANIA

   
  1.  

9293741

ETHAN (ex LUBOV)

?

COOK ISLANDS

   
  1.  

9088536

EVERRICH 10

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9012886

FABINO GAS

PALAU

MARSHALL ISLANDS

   
  1.  

9203928

FOREVER RICH

HONG KONG

     
  1.  

9189110

FORNAX (ex OCEAN SCHOONER)

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9113379

FORTUNA (ex ATHENA)

PANAMA

THAILAND

   
  1.  

9159660

FREESIA I (ex LA ROSA I)

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9180164

FREYA (ex RIDGEBURY PURPOSE)

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9641091

GAMKONORA

INDONESIA

     
  1.  

8519966

GANESHA (ex ARTEMIS)

THAILAND

     
  1.  

8818219

GAS GEMINI

CAMEROON

SIERRA LEONE

SAO TOME & PRINCIPE (FALSE)

 
  1.  

9046784

GAS ROMA (ex GAS ORPHEUS)

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9115303

GAS VISION (ex GAS PULA)

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9247077

GLORY (ex EVER SHINING)

HONG KONG

     
  1.  

9398278

GUNUNG GEULIS/PERTAMINA 8004

INDONESIA

     
  1.  

9014420

HAMBURG DW (EX: GAS LINE)

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9162916

HANA

GUYANA

GABON

   
  1.  

9246645

HAWK

MARSHALL ISLANDS

     
  1.  

9259185

HEBE

PANAMA

 

 

 

  1.  

9233753

HECATE

PANAMA

 

 

 

  1.  

9133587

HELIOS (EX ADISA, SIRO 1)

COOK ISLANDS

CAMEROON

 

 

  1.  

9304356

HERA

VANUATU

 

 

 

  1.  

9248485

HERMES (ex CALLIOP)

?

CAMEROON

   
  1.  

9197844

HORNET

PANAMA

 

 

 

  1.  

9201592

INGRID (ex SUPER LADY)

SIERRA LEONE

     
  1.  

9144067

ION (ex GORI/SANREMO/STRENGTH 1)

CAMEROON

     
  1.  

9337133

IVY

VIETNAM

 

 

 

  1.  

9224295

JUDY II (ex TIAN YING ZUO)

SAO TOME & PRINCIPE (FALSE)

     
  1.  

9213301

KARMA (ex PROUD NADIA)

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9182291

KARO (ex NEW KARPATHOS)

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9203253

LAKA (ex ASTA)

?

MICRONESIA

COOK ISLANDS

SAMOA (FALSE)

  1.  

9206035

LATIN VENTURE (ex PACIFIC BRAVO)

DJIBOUTI

     
  1.  

9246279

LAVAL (ex GIESSEL)

?

ST KITTS & NEVIS

TANZANIA

 
  1.  

9198771

LEONID

PALAU

     
  1.  

9237539

LIMOSTAR (ex LONGBOW LAKE/GULF FALCON)

?

DJIBOUTI

TANZANIA (FALSE)

 
  1.  

9256858

LINDA (EX LADY M, LADY D)

RUSSIA

 

 

 

  1.  

9422988

MARE (ex AL KHALIDIA / VICTORY 1)

GABON

LIBERIA

   
  1.  

9224271

MARIA GRACE

MARSHALL ISLANDS

     
  1.  

9254915

MARTINA (ex NADEZHDA)

PANAMA

MALAYSIA

   
  1.  

9105102

MEADOWS (ex OCEAN RICH, ex CHANG HAI)

COOK ISLANDS

 

 

 

  1.  

9189146

METIS

CYPRUS

 

 

 

  1.  

9209300

MOLECULE (EX SALVADOR, GLORY)

CAMEROON

KIRIBATI

PALAU

 

  1.  

9150767

MR NAUTILUS

CAMEROON

     
  1.  

9235244

NEW GLOBAL

MARSHALL ISLANDS

     
  1.  

9014456

NEXO

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9258014

NOSTOS

LIBERIA

 

 

 

  1.  

9153525

OMAN PRIDE

LIBERIA

 

 

 

  1.  

9174660

ORABELLA

?

PANAMA

   
  1.  

9301524

PALMER

VIETNAM

 

 

 

  1.  

9260366

PAULA (ex: CROWN)

VIETNAM

     
  1.  

9233234

PEARL I

PALAU

 

 

 

  1.  

9102239

PENNY H (ex WU XIAN)

?

TANZANIA (FALSE)

   
  1.  

9256860

PEGAS (EX PERUN)

RUSSIA

     
  1.  

9181194

PHOENIX (ex LERAX/MARINA M)

?

TANZANIA

ST KITTS & NEVIS

 
  1.  

9236248

PHOENIX I

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9288277

PVT DOLPHIN

VIETNAM

     
  1.  

8614467

QUEEN 1

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9233208

RAIN DROP

PANAMA

 

 

 

  1.  

9250907

RANI (ex EAGLE TRENTON)

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9242120

ROSSONERI (ex SHAWNA)

TOGO

ST KITTS & NEVIS

   
  1.  

9070149

SAAVI (ex MAHARAJA)

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9229362

SAINT NICHOLAI

DJIBOUTI

     
  1.  

9257503

SEA BREEZE (ex JAG LARA / FREE SEA)

DJIBOUTI

GABON

   
  1.  

9208057

SEA GLAMOUR (ex SEA ELEGANCE)

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9005053

SEA GLORIA

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9000883

SEA LUNA (ex GAS JENNY)

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9242118

SHANAYE QUEEN

MALAYSIA

PANAMA

   
  1.  

8617055

SIMBA (ex ORE)

SAMOA (FALSE)

TANZANIA

   
  1.  

8902993

STANDORF

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9204805

SUMMER 5

PANAMA

 

 

 

  1.  

9246138

TELLUS (ex ELLA IX / MARS V)

CAMEROON

COMOROS

GABON

TOGO

  1.  

9218181

TOMIE (ex CAILI STAR)

PALAU

LIBERIA

   
  1.  

8912546

TOWER RISE

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9041655

TRIS GAS (ex BEATRIS GAS)

CAMEROON

ST KITTS & NEVIS

   
  1.  

9192260

UMM HABAYEB (ex BLUE PEARL/ JUBILANT)

GUYANA

GABON

PANAMA

 
  1.  

9231901

VENICE (ex INTISAR)

PANAMA

 

 

 

  1.  

9007386

VENUS 7

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9187435

VERGIOS

BELIZE

     
  1.  

9262156

VIGOR (ex SANTA MARINA)

PANAMA

MALTA

 

 

  1.  

9236250

VIRGO

PANAMA

 

 

 

  1.  

9637650

WEALTHY LOYAL (ex GAO CHENG 3)

MARSHALL ISLANDS

HONG KONG

   
  1.  

7230666

WHITE PURL

PANAMA

     
  1.  

9165542

XENIA S (ex ADRATIS/BALDER)

?

TANZANIA

GABON

 
  1.  

9230880

YANNIS (ex XIAO ZHU SHAN)

LIBERIA

     
  1.  

9203930

YING XIN (ex YONG XIN)

HONG KONG

     
  1.  

9255945

YOLANDA (ex LAVINIA)

GUYANA

PANAMA

PANAMA

ST KITTS & NEVIS

*Change of flag due to UANI intervention