Associate Press copy is provided via The Canadian Press
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian authorities said Wednesday they seized an Iranian tanker and arrested its crew members for illegally transferring oil to another vessel in the country’s exclusive economic zone.
The Iranian-flagged — MT Arman 114 — transporting 272,569 metric tons (2.3 million barrels) of crude oil worth 4.6 trillion rupiah ($305 million) was seized on Friday while carrying out illegal transshipment of oil to the Cameroon-flagged tanker — MT S Tinos — in Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone near Natuna waters, said Aan Kurnia, Indonesia’s Coast Guard chief.
An Indonesian coast guard vessel detected suspicious activities at dawn and tried to approach the two tankers. The Iranian tanker fled toward Malaysian territorial waters spilling oil as the hose connecting the two tankers came loose. The tanker ignored various signals to stop, ranging from horns and warnings via loudspeakers to shots in the air, Kurnia said.
He added that the Iranian tanker, which was also carrying three passengers besides its crew, was later arrested by Indonesian Coast Guard with the help of its Malaysian counterpart. The Cameroon-flagged tanker managed to escape.
Authorities were still questioning the tanker’s Egyptian national captain and 28 Syrian crew members, Kurnia said.
Kurnia said the tanker was facing a variety of violations, including not displaying a national flag, shutting off their identification systems, anchoring illegally, as well as the illegal transfer of fuel between ships and spilling oil.
Authorities were escorting the Iranian tanker to Batam island, near Singapore, for further investigation, Kurnia said.
In 2021, Indonesian authorities seized another Iranian tanker and a Panamanian tanker over a similar illegal transfer of oil. The tankers were released months later after a court case where they were fined 2 billion rupiah (nearly $140,000) for spilling oil into the sea. The captains of the vessels were sentenced to one year in jail.
Iran, home to major oil and natural gas reserves, has seen its sales abroad deeply impacted by U.S. sanctions after former President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018. That cut a crucial source of government revenue in Iran’s long-anemic economy.
Since then, Iran has relied on black-market sales and deals with Venezuela to keep its sales going.
Iran’s state-owned fleet of oil tankers routinely turns off their Automatic Identification System trackers to try and mask where they deliver their cargo. Those AIS beacons, a safety measure so other ships know what’s around them, can be tracked. Analysts say those ships often transfer their oil to other ships, that then sell the crude oil under false pretenses.
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