Iran resumes maritime shipping to Latakia after nearly three-month break

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The following is an English-language version of Levant Network research prepared for Akhbar Alaan.

A cargo vessel sanctioned by the US recently traveled to Latakia, the latest maritime shipment from Iran to the Syrian port in nearly three months, according to information reviewed by Levant Networks for Akhbar Alaan.

Data from MarineTraffic.com reveals that the Shiba vessel docked in Latakia on April 15 following a 19-day journey from the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. The ship has since sailed onward to Europe, where it is expected to travel to Antwerp in the coming days.

The Shiba’s trip was the first by an Iranian cargo vessel to Latakia since January 28. The port has continued to operate despite the outbreak of COVID-19 in order to secure imports, including wheat and other food, into Syria.

The US sanctioned the Shiba in November 2018 for being linked to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, which Washington has accused of transporting military cargoes.

While sailing through the Red Sea toward Syria, the Shiba cargo ship stopped outside the Dahlak islands between April 6 and April 9, where it drifted near the Iranian vessel Saviz.

The Shiba came within approximately 2000 meters of the Saviz, which reportedly operates as a floating base for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp, according to MarineTraffic.com data reviewed by Akhbar Alaan.

A September 2018 report published by the US Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center said that the Saviz “is visited by all Iranian ships moving through the Red Sea, nominally to coordinate anti-piracy measures.”

Since April 2019, six Iranian cargo vessels sanctioned by the US have traveled to Latakia a total of ten times, according to data reviewed by Akhbar Alaan.

Other than the Shiba, the list of vessels includes the Artabaz, Shahr e Kord, Azargoun, Artenos and Parnia, all of which are operated by Iranian firm Rahbaran Omid Darya Ship Management. 

The US sanctioned the company in 2011 for helping the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines evade sanctions. 

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