Tanker Tracking

As the U.S. continues to apply sanctions aimed at curbing Iranian oil exports—most recently on June 25—the regime in Tehran continues to get around them. One underreported tactic involves using Chinese shipyards to repair and maintain its fleet of tankers.

Updated: June 30, 2024

China is principally responsible for keeping the Iranian regime in business through oil purchases that have totaled over $100 billion since President Biden assumed office in January 2021 to December 2023. Four in every five barrels of exported Iranian oil go to China. This is despite U.S. sanctions that were reimposed in 2019 and maintained under the present administration, with the stated aim of reducing Iranian oil exports to zero.

In this month’s update, we note with approval that the Panama Maritime Authority is making significant progress in cleaning up its registry by deleting at least 32 vessels suspected of transporting Iranian oil. This has been a key request from United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) since 2020. Panama’s proactive measures represent a step toward curbing Iran’s deceptive shipping practices and cutting off a vital revenue stream used to fund its terrorist activities. Nonetheless, at least 130 vessels on the Panama registry require further scrutiny and potential action. 

U.S. and European economic restrictions have been in place on Syria since 2011, including measures prohibiting most oil trade with Syria. Despite this, Syria has been a consistent top-five destination for U.S.-sanctioned Iranian oil since at least 2011. Some 8 percent of total Iranian oil exports end up in Syria—a lot of it forwarded to Hezbollah in Lebanon—facilitated by IRGC smuggling networks.

Just as travelers may not generally enter other countries without a valid passport, ships may not dock at foreign ports without a recognized flag. So it was a significant step this month when the U.S.

The striking divergence between U.S. oil policy on Russia versus Iran was borne out again this month.

The Iran-backed Houthi terrorist group in Yemen has carried out a total of 30 piracy (hijacking), UAV, and anti-ship ballistic missile attacks on ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since the first attack on November 19, 2023, the hijacking of the GALAXY LEADER (IMO: 9237307).