Middle EastTankers

NITC increasingly operating in the dark

Iranian tankers are increasingly voyaging incognito to get around reimposed US sanctions.

Latest AIS data analysed by shipbroker Gibsons shows that approximately 33 Iranian VLCCs have their AIS trackers completely switched off, a notable increase from just 12 units in April, just before the expiry of the US waiver program.

While Iran’s main tanker player NITC has engaged in ship-to-ship transfers in the past, increasingly the Iranian tactic is to use its tankers for floating storage, Gibson noted.

Argus Media has estimated that floating storage jumped from 7m barrels to 20m barrels last month.

Analysts at TankerTrackers.com have recently spotted one Iranian tanker suddenly appearing in Southeast Asian waters having gone dark for a number of weeks since leaving Kharg Island in Iran last month.

The 2008-built, 317,367 dwt Horse, belonging to NITC, suddenly appeared in Southeast Asian waters late last week. After weeks of having its AIS switched off, the ship flicked its transponders back on, showing a changed destination to China and a changed draught (see data provided by MarineTraffic and TankerTrackers below).

NITC is one of the world’s largest tanker operators with a fleet of 59 ships made up of 56 tankers, an LPG carrier and two OSVs, according to data from VesselsValue.

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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