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Indonesia seizes Iran, Panama flagged oil tankers: coast guard

Indonesia has seized two oil tankers, including an Iranian-flagged ship laden with crude oil, the country’s coast guard told SP Global Platts on Jan. 25. The incident comes close on the heels of Iran detaining a South Korean tanker with Indonesian crew onboard.

The Iranian tanker is laden with around 280,000 mt of crude, while the other, a Panamian flagged ship is empty, the spokesperson for Indonesia’s Badan Keamanan Laut, or coast guard, Colonel Wisnu Pramandita said.

“Both tankers are being brought to Batam island. The crude oil will be our evidence,” Colonel Wisnu said.

The tankers had turned off the AIS, or Automatic Identification System, that tracks the movement of ships. Under Indonesian law, it is mandatory for all ships, regardless of flag, to activate their AIS when they sail in the country’s territorial waters.

The Iranian flagged tanker was detected near Pontianak, sources said.

According to market sources, the tankers were involved in a clandestine ship-to-ship transfer of oil and included the Iranian-flagged MT Horse, a 317,367 dwt VLCC and Panama-flagged MT Freya.

Apparently owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company, cFlow, Platts trade-flow software, showed its likely destination was Ulsan with an expected arrival on Jan. 19 and its current location was detected as outside port limits of East Singapore and Jan. 12 as arrival. The VLCC had been idling in Fujairah for 240 days from Feb. 12 to Oct. 19, last year and was thereafter tracked at Puerto La Cruz port, the data showed.

NITC executives could not be immediately reached for comment.

According to the Indonesian coast guard, the tankers have violated the rules of right of transit.

IRAN RELATED MARITIME INCIDENTS

The incident comes three weeks after Iran detained a South Korean-flagged chemical tanker, the Hankuk Chemi, on the Strait of Hormuz, for allegedly polluting the environment.

Crew members on board Hankuk Chemi, which included several Indonesian nationals, are still being detained, according to South Korean media reports.

Earlier, South Korean government officials told S&P Global Platts there was a possibility that the seizure may be linked to Iran’s disenchantment with Seoul. This is because its assets worth $7 billion has been frozen in two South Korean banks for almost two years, due to Washington’s tightened sanctions against Tehran, they said.

Iran’s central bank has Won-denominated accounts at South Korea’s state-run banks, Woori and IBK. Under the system used since September 2010, South Korean exporters to Iran were indirectly paid through the Iranian central bank’s won-denominated accounts in Seoul, and these were also the accounts which South Korean refiners transferred their payments for Iranian crude imports to.

The accounts were frozen in May 2019 when Washington’s sanctions waiver for South Korea’s imports of Iranian crude expired. Iran has called for South Korea to unlock the frozen bank accounts amid serious economic challenges due to both the US sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic.
Source: Platts

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