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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 26 February 2021

Indonesia seizes Iranian ‘MT Horse’ and Panamanian ‘MT Frea’ oil tankers off Indonesia’s West Kalimantan

Iranian oil tankers often transfer oil to other ships to circumvent US sanctions

In this photo released by Indonesian Maritime Security Agency (BAKAMLA), Panamanian-flagged MT Frea, left, and Iranian-flagged MT Horse tankers are seen anchored together in Pontianak waters off Borneo island, Indonesia, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. Indonesian authorities said that they seized the two vessels suspected of carrying out the illegal transfer of oil in their country's waters. (Indonesian Maritime Security Agency via AP)
In this photo released by Indonesian Maritime Security Agency (BAKAMLA), Panamanian-flagged MT Frea, left, and Iranian-flagged MT Horse tankers are seen anchored together in Pontianak waters off Borneo island, Indonesia, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. Indonesian authorities said that they seized the two vessels suspected of carrying out the illegal transfer of oil in their country's waters. (Indonesian Maritime Security Agency via AP)

Indonesian authorities said that they seized an Iranian tanker and Panamanian tanker suspected of carrying out the illegal transfer of oil in their country’s waters Sunday.

The tankers – the Iranian-flagged MT Horse and the Panamanian-flagged MT Frea – were seized in waters off Indonesia’s West Kalimantan province, said Wisnu Pramadita, a spokesman for the Indonesian Maritime Security Agency.

He said the tankers are suspected of various breaches, including not displaying national flags, switching off their identification systems and anchoring illegally, as well as spilling oil and the illegal transfer of fuel between ships.

Authorities were escorting the tankers to Batam in Riau Islands province for investigation, he said.

Iranian state television acknowledged the tanker’s seizure, citing Indonesian authorities. A spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry said they have asked Indonesia to provide more information about the seizure of the Iranian flagged vessel.

Iran has major oil and natural gas reserves but sales abroad were hit badly by US sanctions after former President Donald Trump withdrew America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018. That cut a crucial source of government revenue in Iran’s long-anaemic economy.

Since then, Iran has relied on black-market sales and deals with Venezuela to keep its economy going.

Iran’s state-owned fleet of oil tankers routinely travel turn off their automatic identification system trackers to try to mask where they deliver their cargo. Those AIS beacons, which can traced, are a safety measure that lets other ships know what’s around them.

Analysts say those ships often transfer their oil to other vessels which then sell the crude under false pretences.

Updated: January 25, 2021 11:30 AM

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