Indonesia has seized an Iranian-flagged tanker suspected of illegally smuggling oil

  • An Iranian-flagged supertanker carrying $300 million worth of crude oil
  • Vessels suspected of illegal oil transfer
  • MT Arman was suspected of manipulating its AIS

JAKARTA, July 11 (Reuters) – Indonesia’s coast guard said on Tuesday it had seized an Iranian-flagged supertanker suspected of illegally smuggling crude oil and vowed to strengthen maritime patrols.

According to a Reuters analysis earlier this year, „shadow” vessels of tankers carrying oil from authorized Iran, Russia and Venezuela smuggle their cargo through the Singapore Strait.

Hundreds of additional ships, some uninsured, have joined this opaque trade over the past few years, increasing the risk of oil spills and accidents.

The very large crude carrier (VLCC), MT Arman 114, was carrying 272,569 metric tons of light crude oil worth 4.6 trillion rupiah ($304 million) and is suspected of transferring the oil to another vessel without permission, according to Indonesia’s Maritime Safety Agency. (Bagamla) said.

Pakamla chief Ann Gurnia told reporters the vessel was seized after it was spotted doing a ship-to-ship transfer of oil with the Cameroon-flagged MT S Dinos near Indonesia’s northern Natuna Sea.

As the two supertankers tried to escape, authorities decided to focus on the MT Arman, which with the help of Malaysian authorities moved into Malaysian waters, Aan said.

MT Arman was also suspected of violating other maritime regulations, such as tampering with its Automatic Identification System (AIS), Bagamla said.

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„MT Arman was fooling their AIS position to show it was in the Red Sea, but actually it was here. So it looks like they already had malicious intent,” Ann said.

MT S Tinos should have been scrapped in 2018, he added.

The ship operators could not immediately be reached for comment.

Ann vowed to strengthen patrols in its waters by the Indonesian Coast Guard with the help of other authorities. Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago with 17,000 islands.

„We have to be firm, tough. There has to be a deterrent effect so it doesn’t happen again,” Ann said.

In 2021, Indonesia seized Iranian and Panamanian-flagged ships over similar allegations. The captains of the two ships were later detained by an Indonesian court for two years.

($1 = 15,155.0000 rupees)

Reporting by Stefano Suleiman and Francisca Nangoi; Editing by Martin Petty and Lincoln Feast.

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Based in Jakarta, Fransiska reports on energy and commodities news in Indonesia, a major exporter of various key commodities such as thermal coal, LNG, nickel, copper, palm oil and coffee. He covers broad economic news and monetary policy.

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