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Going Dark and Fake Voyages: The Tricks Used to Dodge Trade Sanctions

Going Dark and Fake Voyages: The Tricks Used to Dodge Trade Sanctions thumbnail

As the U.S. looks to enforce sanctions aimed at halting trade with states such as Iran and Venezuela, there’s increased scrutiny on the tricks being used to keep commodities flowing to and from blacklisted countries.

Ships vanishing from tracking screens, clandestine transfers on the high seas and fake destinations are among some of the tactics used to hide the business from authorities, according to analysts who track flows around the world. These maneuvers have helped Iran continue with about 300,000 a day of oil exports in June, half of which went to China, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

Here’s a description of how some of those tricks work.

1. Going Dark

A common method to transport Iranian oil or North Korean coal with stealth is to turn off the Automatic Identification System, an electronic device that pinpoints a ship’s location. Known as going dark, a vessel flicks the switch before berthing and typically reappears days later, masking the location of its load or discharge port. Ships can sometimes still be tracked by satellites, but even that is limited by scope and weather.

“With the world’s oceans so vast, satellite imagery can only look in so many places at once, despite the technological advances in recent years,’’ said Tom Kenison, an analyst at industry consultant FGE . It’s also weather dependent as heavy cloud cover can obscure the view, he said.

2. Ship-to-Ship Transfers

A method that often goes hand-in-hand with going dark. A first vessel will take its clandestine cargo away from the country in question before transferring it to a waiting ship, all of this happening out of sight. The vessels will then sail in different directions. For about a third of Iranian exports of crude and oil products, more than one tanker typically handles a load before it’s delivered to its final destination, said Ilya Niklyaev, an analyst at data intelligence firm Kpler SAS.

Common locations for transfers are the Sharjah and Khor Fakkan anchorages off the United Arab Emirates, the Malacca Strait and Nipah anchorage off Indonesia and areas off Sri Lanka and the Maldives, according to Kpler and FGE. Tankers are also trying to be more discreet and are increasingly conducting transfers away from designated anchorages, FGE’s Kenison said.

3. Fake Destinations

Signaling the wrong destination to load or unload is another technique. Ships that intend to take cargoes from Iran may indicate their loading ports in sanction-free Qatar, Saudi Arabia or Iraq, while those vessels on their way to North Korea may show a port in north-east China as their landing point. Ships can keep changing their destinations and end up not berthing at any of them.

4. Rebranded Barrels

Iranian barrels can also be rebranded as oil from a nation free from sanctions such as Iraq, according to FGE’s Kenison. The countries share fields along their border and the crude has similar characteristics. Oil from these deposits can be trucked out of the Persian Gulf state to another port and documents forged to hide Iran as the origin, he said. Still, there is a level of risk. Tests are typically carried out on the crude at the landing port and if the parameters don’t meet the contract specifications, the cargo can be rejected.

Some Shipments Are Still OK

While this might not be a premeditated strategy aimed at skirting sanctions, some companies may continue to receive oil from sanctioned nations as a repayment for earlier investments in fields or other infrastructure. In China, for example, refiners are expected to continue lifting 250,000 barrels a day of Iranian oil for this reason, according to FGE estimates. China National Petroleum Corp., known as Sinopec, has invested in projects in Iran and Venezuela, another country under U.S. sanctions.

–With assistance from Hannah Dormido.

Chron



112 Comments on "Going Dark and Fake Voyages: The Tricks Used to Dodge Trade Sanctions"

  1. Davy on Fri, 12th Jul 2019 6:09 am 

    “Alaska Chokes on Wildfires as Heat Waves Dry Out the Arctic”
    https://tinyurl.com/y42ntndr faster than expected

    SNIP: Under the choking black smoke from the bog and forest fires in Siberia and Alaska, it can feel like the Earth itself is burning. The normally moist, black organic peat soil and lush forests have been drying, and when they catch fire, they burn relentlessly. Global warming has been thawing tundra and drying vast stretches of the far-northern boreal forests, and it also has spurred more thunderstorms with lightning, which triggered many of the fires burning in Alaska this year, said Brian Brettschneider, a climate scientist with the International Arctic Research Center who closely tracks Alaskan and Arctic extreme weather. So far this year, wildfires have scorched more than 1.2 million acres in Alaska, making it one of the state’s three biggest fire years on record to this date, with high fire danger expected to persist in the weeks ahead. The large Arctic fires in June could be a sign of a climate tipping point, said Thomas Smith, a climate researcher at the London School of Economics and Political Science. “It really is unprecedented, a word we should not use lightly,” he wrote. “It may be that in most previous years, temperatures have never been warm enough to drive off moisture from the winter frost and snowpack. The ground is likely covered in mosses that act as a sponge, staying moist all summer long before freezing again in winter. But now that sponge is drying out.”

    “It’s not only land areas that are heating up. The ocean around Alaska has also been running a fever for months, and it’s all connected. Summer ocean heat waves contribute land heat waves; in the fall, warmer ocean and land temperatures delay the freeze-up of ice near the shore, which leads to even more heat buildup in the ocean, part of the death spiral of the Arctic climate system as we know it, now headed toward an uncertain future, according to scientists. The changes in ocean temperatures and sea ice extent likely represent a climate shift for Alaska, said Rick Thoman, with the International Arctic Research Center. “But there’s no reason to think that we’re at a new equilibrium,” he said. He likens it to a five-year-old on an escalator: “The climate will likely feature big swings all the while trending up. Sure, the 5-year can run up or down and so get to the top faster or slower, but in the end the escalator ‘wins.’”

  2. Davy on Fri, 12th Jul 2019 6:18 am 

    “Driven by China, global investment in clean energy falls”
    https://tinyurl.com/yxtdou7z renewable energy world

    “Worldwide investments in clean energy projects have hit a six-year low. Global spending totaled $117.6 billion in the first half of 2019, down 14% from a year earlier and the least since 2013, according to a report by BloombergNEF. Investments slowed in all three major markets — the U.S., Europe and China — but China’s decline was especially pronounced as the country continued its shift away from subsidies for solar and wind power. The slide in spending underscores how much sway China holds in the global market for renewable energy. Despite a 39% plunge in investments, the country remains by far the world’s biggest clean-energy spender with deals totaling $28.8 billion in the first half. Its decision to pull back subsidies was also the chief reason for a drop in global spending last year. “The slowdown in investment in China is real,” said Justin Wu, head of BNEF’s Asia-Pacific region. Some possible good news for the clean energy industry: Spending may pick back up in the second half of the year as an auction for solar power in China triggers a “rush” of project financing and some big offshore wind deals come through, Wu said. Spending in some countries including Japan and India rose. And despite the drop in Europe, investments in both Spain and Sweden took off, jumping by more than 200% in both countries.”

  3. Davy on Fri, 12th Jul 2019 8:14 am 

    Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one.

    That’s what makes discussion forums so much fun. You get to share your opinions with other people, and at the same time, you get to take other peoples’ opinions into consideration.

  4. JuanP on Fri, 12th Jul 2019 8:51 am 

    OOps, I am JuanP not Davy

    Juanpee identity theft:
    Davy on Fri, 12th Jul 2019 8:14 am

    Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one.

    That’s what makes discussion forums so much fun. You get to share your opinions with other people, and at the same time, you get to take other peoples’ opinions into consideration.

  5. More Davy Identity Theft on Fri, 12th Jul 2019 10:55 am 

    JuanP on Fri, 12th Jul 2019 8:51 am

  6. Davy on Fri, 12th Jul 2019 11:35 am 

    If what I described above sounds like living in a third world country to you, congratulations you get it! Cause that’s exactly what this country is going to look like, and most people here won’t know what to do. That’s why I’m building a monastery for others, and I figure I can feed about a thousand others for at least an afternoon. Those with the biggest guns get to eat first. Unless near term extinction is real. Than were all screwed. Obviously.

  7. JuanP on Fri, 12th Jul 2019 12:34 pm 

    OOps, I am JuanP not Davy

    Juanpee identity theft:
    Davy on Fri, 12th Jul 2019 11:35 am
    If what I described above sounds like living in a third world country to you, congratulations you get it! Cause that’s exactly what this country is going to look like, and most people here won’t know what to do. That’s why I’m building a monastery for others, and I figure I can feed about a thousand others for at least an afternoon. Those with the biggest guns get to eat first. Unless near term extinction is real. Than were all screwed. Obviously.

  8. More Davy Identity Theft on Fri, 12th Jul 2019 12:42 pm 

    JuanP on Fri, 12th Jul 2019 12:34 pm

  9. Davy on Fri, 12th Jul 2019 12:52 pm 

    I plan to continue broadcasting my plans on the Internet, cause I know some people from St. Louis will eventually read all about my monastery here in Dent County, if they haven’t already.

    To all you fine folks in St. Louis, all of my comments over the past 10 years are archived here for everyone to read. Things are going to ugly here in the USA people. Tell all your friends about me and my plans, and don’t forget to bring yer guns.

    The more the merrier!

  10. JuanP on Fri, 12th Jul 2019 12:57 pm 

    OOps, I am JuanP not Davy

    juanpee identity theft:

    Davy on Fri, 12th Jul 2019 12:52 pm

    I plan to continue broadcasting my plans on the Internet, cause I know some people from St. Louis will eventually read all about my monastery here in Dent County, if they haven’t already.

    To all you fine folks in St. Louis, all of my comments over the past 10 years are archived here for everyone to read. Things are going to ugly here in the USA people. Tell all your friends about me and my plans, and don’t forget to bring yer guns.

    The more the merrier!

  11. JuanP on Fri, 12th Jul 2019 1:00 pm 

    JuanP what’s your plan? LOL. You seem more concerned about your hurt feeling then making any efforts in regards to what is ahead. You are just a parasite.

  12. More Davy Identity Theft on Fri, 12th Jul 2019 1:03 pm 

    JuanP on Fri, 12th Jul 2019 12:57 pm

    JuanP on Fri, 12th Jul 2019 1:00 pm

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