Indonesia Seizes Iranian Oil Tanker

Authored by Charles Kennedy for

Indonesia has seized an Iranian-flagged tanker on suspicion that it was planning an illegal oil transfer, Reuters has reported, citing a statement by the country’s coast guard. Per the statement, the vessel, named MT Arman 114, was carrying over 270,000 barrels of light crude and was going to transfer it to another ship without a permit. Ship-to-ship transfers have become common as a way for Iran to move its crude to international markets avoiding U.S. sanction repercussions.

The Indonesian coast guard caught the vessel in the act, the statement said, while it was unloading its cargo onto a Cameroon-flagged vessel. The Iranian vessel was also suspected of turning off its transponder, which is illegal and also a common practice among sanction-hit vessels.

There has been a wave of tanker seizures this year, both by Iran and by Western powers with a presence in the Arabian Gulf. The Indonesian seizure stands out in that crowd as it does not seem to have a political goal. Between April and May, Iran seized as many as three tankers in the Gulf amid a flare-up of tensions. One of these was carrying crude oil for Chevron, another, the Iranian authorities said, belonged to Iranian owners but was illegally leased to another owner.

The United States also seized an Iranian tanker earlier this year—a move that some saw as the cause for the Chevron cargo seizure by Iran. In June, the FT reported that the U.S. was preparing to start unloading the vessel.

This is not the first time the global energy markets have seen a spat between the United States and Iran over seized oil tankers. In 2019, the Iranian National Guard Corps seized a British oil tanker, the Stena Impera, for allegedly violating maritime law. In 2020, Iran seized a Liberian-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, although it let it go.


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