AsiaMiddle EastOperationsTankers

Missing Gulf Sky crew turn up in India having made sensational escape from the UAE to Iran

Twenty-six of the 28 crew of the controversial suezmax Gulf Sky, which had been under arrest off Khorfakkan in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the past four months, have landed on home soil in India, having upped anchor on July 5, taking on fuel surreptitiously the day before, and switching off the ship’s AIS, before heading for Iran. Two crew members are still in Iran as their passports were being renewed in the UAE at the time the crew decided to make a break for freedom in the most extraordinary crew repatriation story of the year.

Vessel tracking service TankerTrackers reported in December last year how the 1998-built Gulf Sky was involved in an illegal ship-to-ship transfer of oil operation in Iranian waters.

Research by TankerTrackers using satellite imagery from Planet Labs and data from MarineTraffic shows the vessel anchored today around Bandar Abbas, Iran’s top port (see satellite image below).

The tanker entered the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) database as officially abandoned in March this year. The ILO states the crew are owed more than $100,000 in back wages. European shipping database Equasis lists the tanker as owned by Oman’s Taif Shipping.

The ship has links to Amir Dianat, someone on the US’s sanctions list for his ties with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Charges have been filed in the US against Dianat and one of his business associates for violations of sanctions and money laundering laws.

Photo: Planet Labs

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Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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