Lebanese Front Company Offloads Iran-linked Tanker

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A Beirut-based firm facilitating Iranian petroleum shipments has offloaded a tanker that helped move oil to Syria last fall, the latest move in a network the US alleges is supporting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

On March 6, the SAVIOR (IMO 9173745) was reportedly sold to an Iranian firm, according to maritime data UN’s International Maritime Organization (IMO). 

However, the IMO did not disclose the identity of the new registered owner of the vessel, which was renamed to SAMAH. The vessel was also re-flagged under Iran from its previous Comoros flag.

Levant Networks previously reported that the SAVIOR was acquired by the Lebanon-registered Africo 1 Off-Shore SAL on August 6, 2019, shortly before the tanker offloaded crude to Syria.

TankerTrackers.com, which closely monitors Iranian petroleum shipments to Syria, reported on August 31 that the SAVIOR, a then-Comoros-flagged vessel laden with 1 million barrels of Iranian oil since April, arrived off the coast of Syria. 

TankerTrackers.com uses satellite imagery, commercial maritime data and other open sources to uncover “ghost ships,” vessels that have turned off their transponders in a bid to hide their activity.

On September 29, TankerTrackers.com reported that the SAVIOR had come back online with its transponder and “delivered its 1 million barrel cargo of Iranian crude oil to the Baniyas refinery after holding it for 5 months.”

Africo 1 Off-Shore SAL, which registered to an address in downtown Beirut, was acquired by new owners in January 2019, according to The National. The UAE-based newspaper uncovered in August that Africo 1 Off-Shore SAL — a long dormant firm when it was bought by its new owners — had subsequently acquired the JASMINE (IMO 9105085) tanker. 

In October, the JASMINE conducted ship-to-ship transfers with the ADRIAN DARYA 1 (IMO 9116412) to help ferry the Iranian-flagged tanker’s petroleum to Syria, according to TankerTrackers.com data cited by The National. The ADRIAN DARYA 1 made global headlines earlier in 2019 when it was seized by British commandos near Gibraltar, before being released amid a diplomatic standoff between the UK and Iran. 

In September, the US sanctioned Africo 1 Off-Shore SAL as well as the JASMINE for allegedly being part of a “large shipping network that is directed by and financially supports” the IRGC’s elite Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and Hezbollah.

In its press release, the US Department of the Treasury said that “this complex network of intermediaries enables the IRGC-QF to obfuscate its involvement in selling Iranian oil.”

“The IRGC-QF also relies heavily on Hizballah officials and front companies to broker associated contracts,” Washington added at the time. The SAVIOR was not designated in the action, nor was it placed on earlier watchlists of vessels implicated in moving Iranian oil to Syria. 

The SAVIOR is currently at anchorage in the Turkish port of Tuzla, according to Marine Traffic. 

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