Nylon tarps deployed in desperate bid to dodge sanctions

Tanker analysts are using satellite imagery to detect more and more desperate ships trying to disguise themselves from their sanctions-busting activities by covering their decks with nylon tarps.

“Over the past year, we have seen a lot of oil tankers pull up in port in both Iran and Venezuela to load up on a couple of million barrels at a time. To better disguise themselves from satellites, the crew spend a day or two deploying large sheets of nylon tarp. The majority go for blue but the orange ones seem pretty nice,” Samir Madani, co-founder of TankerTrackers.com, told Splash today.

It’s like disguising an elephant with an ant

Other ship spotters have also been tracking this phenomenon including non-profit United Against Nuclear Iran.

Commenting on the various images of barely camouflaged tankers, Adis Ajdin, Splash’s chief correspondent, quipped: “It’s like disguising an elephant with an ant really.”

Analysis from tanker brokers Gibson in May suggested up to 10% and 6% of the VLCC and suezmax fleets respectively are involved in sanctions-busting activity.

Braemar ACM reported 10 days ago that shipments of oil from Iran and Venezuela have been reported as originating from Malaysia after cargoes were transferred in Malaysian waters to avoid US sanctions.

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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