National Iranian Tanker Company shuffling front companies for tanker fleet

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

Iran has shuffled the web of companies that own its oil tankers in recent months, forming five new firms in Belize while it shut down over a dozen front companies in the Carribean nation.

In April, Oxygen Shipping Limited in Belize acquired the Herby tanker, the most recent change of ownership involving the 78 oil tankers that are flagged to Iran, according to maritime data reviewed by Levant Networks for Akhbar Alaan. 

Since February, four other recently-formed firms in Belize have acquired Iranian oil tankers. All of these companies have a registered address with the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), indicating they serve as fronts.

In November 2018, the US Department of the Treasury announced sanctions against the NITC and its fleet of tankers as part of Washington’s reimposition of sanctions against Iran.

“Each year, these vessels move tens of millions of barrels’ worth of Iranian oil, as well as Iranian natural gas, which constitute a major source of revenue to fund the Iranian regime’s malign activities,” the US said in a press release.

Iran has relied on a series of front companies, dozens of them registered in Belize, for tankers under its control. In the last three months, 22 tankers owned by firms in Belize were moved directly under the ownership of the NITC, according to data reviewed by Akhbar Alaan.

Meanwhile, over a dozen of these Belize-based front companies, all sanctioned by the US, have become inactive, data from the International Business Companies Registry of Belize reveals.

Not all of the Iran-flagged vessels have been switched to the direct ownership of the NITC. One tanker, Henna, was acquired by the Panama-registered Hectar Shipping. Like Belize, Panama is a tax-haven that hosts a number of front companies for Iran’s tankers.

Hectar Shipping is part of a network of eight firms in Panama that has acquired nine Iranian tankers since June 2019, according to maritime data reviewed by Akhbar Alaan. Panamanian corporate documents reveal that these firms are all run by Iranians with addresses in Tehran.

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