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Trump administration branded B-team gangsters as tanker feud with Iran heats up

The past 24 hours have seen a slew of developments in the ongoing tanker tensions between Iran and the west.

The United States sanctioned an “oil for terror” network of firms, ships and individuals yesterday with alleged links to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps who have supplied Syria with oil worth hundreds of millions of dollars in breach of US sanctions. Among those hit by the US move is an Indian company with links to the Adrian Darya 1, a VLCC that has been in the headlines all summer because of its plans to deliver crude to Syria.

The US is offering anyone $15m if they can disrupt this network.

“Treasury’s action against this sprawling petroleum network makes it explicitly clear that those purchasing Iranian oil are directly supporting Iran’s militants and terrorist arm, the IRGC-Qods Force,” US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

Remarkably, the US state department confirmed yesterday that it had offered millions of dollars to the master of the Adrian Darya 1, trying to persuade him to change his route to a destination where US forces could then seize it.

Detained in Gibraltar from July 4 for six weeks, the Adrian Darya 1, formerly Grace 1, has since headed to the eastern Mediterranean where it is likely to be offloading some of its 2.1m barrels of crude in order for it to be able to transit the Suez Canal.

The ship’s captain did not take the bribes and has subsequently been blacklisted by the US with the state department saying it will not give him a US visa, nor any other sailor who works on Iranian-linked ships, a position that has attracted strong criticism from trade unions.

On Twitter, Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif accused the US of “outright blackmail”.

“Having failed at piracy, the US resorts to outright blackmail—deliver us Iran’s oil and receive several million dollars or be sanctioned,” Zarif wrote, hashtagging the post,#BTeamGangsters.

Finally, in a busy day of Iranian tanker-linked news, Iran has freed seven of the 23 crew onboard the British-flagged and Swedish-owned tanker, Stena Impero, who have been detained at Bandar Abbas since July 19.

“Stena Bulk and Northern Marine Management can confirm that seven crew members of the Stena Impero have been released and are now travelling to a safe location where they will be reunited with their families,” commented Erik Hanell, president and CEO of Stena Bulk.

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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