Washington Post Highlights UANI Campaign To Track, Stop Iranian Oil Tankers

Iranian Vessels Using Creative & Brazen Methods To Avoid U.S. Sanctions

(New York, N.Y.) – For the past 18 months, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) has been tracking the activities of the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), and their blacklisted oil tanker fleets’ illicit activities and foreign tankers that engage with NITC. As a result of the U.S.-led maximum pressure campaign, Iranian and non-Iranian vessels have employed brazen methods to hide their movements and evade U.S. sanctions. However, using various sources and methods, UANI has managed to catch and catalogue dozens of cases of foreign tankers involved in illegal clandestine operations. UANI’s efforts were highlighted on Sunday by The Washington Post as part of the U.S.-led maximum pressure campaign. 

“But Iran conceals the bulk of its oil trade through subterfuge, with practices ranging from the simple — changing the names and registrations of oil tankers — to the complex and dangerous, such as clandestine transfers of crude oil or liquefied petroleum gas between vessels in the open sea. United Against Nuclear Iran, a Washington advocacy group that monitors Iran’s illicit oil trade, obtained aerial photographs depicting four vessels allegedly engaged in illegal ship-to-ship transfers of Iranian oil in October. In five other instances, foreign ships were seen picking up Iranian liquid petroleum gas and transferring the fuel to other vessels bound for Chinese ports.” 

Speaking to the Washington Post, UANI research director Daniel Roth further explained the various loopholes and methods tankers utilize to carry out illegal transfers of Iranian oil.

“The tankers involved in the exchanges typically turn off their transponders, the automated radio beacons used by ships to identify one another at sea. Some engage in ‘spoofing,’ a kind of seaborne shell game in which ships swap their transponders to make it harder for outsiders to tell where the oil is going. In other cases, a tanker’s owners simply change the vessel’s name or re-register the ship under a different country’s flag. ‘It’s a very murky world,’ said Daniel Roth, UANI research director, who co-wrote the report with Claire Jungman, UANI chief of staff. ‘There’s a lot of flag-hopping that goes on. Owners change names and registries at the drop of a hat.’”

Additionally, Roth and UANI Chief of Staff Claire Jungman recently published the results of an additional 12 months of investigations, which unearthed dozens of cases of foreign tankers in illegal clandestine operations among 70 pinpointed vessels, designed to help Iran skirt oil sanctions. They
called for international flag registries to investigate and deflag the vessels and for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to sanction and individually designate the vessels and/or their owners/operators.

UANI CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace responded to these developments by “applaud[ing] our team’s great work tracking Iran’s latest effort at oil smuggling. Iran’s elaborate efforts to evade sanctions show that the maximum pressure campaign continues to work to isolate Iran.”

To read The Washington Post article, please click

To read UANI’s Stop The Hop blog, please click here.

To read UANI’s October 2020 Iran Tanker Tracking Report, please click