Vessels Seizure Sparks Iran’s Bid to Breach U.S. Sanctions
In yet another step at biting the bullet, Iran’s latest bid at expanding trade of oil beyond the Arabian gulf stands exposed. The Iranian and Panamanian vessel, MT Horse was seized by the Indonesian authorities near Kalimantan Island in the South China Sea, over suspicion of illegal oil transfer laying bare the longstanding trade relations between Iran and China since the U.S. imposed its embargo on oil imports.
As per the international maritime organisation, the ships are supposed to follow a protocol of safety and transparency keeping their transponders on. The authorities gained headway into the alleged conspiracy when they found that the vessel in order to conceal its identity had put off their flags and transponders and were engaged in transferring oil that caused an oil spill in the ocean. The act drew much flak in the international community over environmental concerns and far-reaching vision of increased oil exports that could go unaccounted with the change of the U.S. administration.
The ship was made to dock at Batam Island, a hub port city on the Riau Island in South China Sea for further investigations. This comes amidst a spate of seizure attempts by the U.S authorities pertaining to the 200 million barrels of crude oil on board the Liberia- flagged Achilleas; in blocking Islamic Republic to trade in crude oil and a counter proliferation activity by these countries even recently having completed its first batch of uranium enrichment, a breach far beyond the cap imposed in the nuke deal. The Achilleas, a vessel known as a Very Large Crude Carrier, received its oil from another ship at the United Arab Emirates port of Fujairah in November. According to the shipping documents, the Achilleas was then scheduled to sail to the Omani capital of Muscat. Its tracking system was switched off from Jan. 1 until Jan. 13, when it was sailing near South Africa, reports confirmed.
Iran has been flexing its muscles with the mid-eastern countries as well with a South Korean destroyer carrying 20 sailors on board which was recently seized by the Iranian authorities in the Strait of Homus last week.
South Korea having imported oil from Iran till about 2019 has close to 7 billion dollars of Iranian funds frozen in South Korean banks. While it has still not been able to tow the line with U.S. as an ally, its commercial interests with Iran has come to a virtual standstill due to the country’s inability to settle the debt and its fear of revealing the Iranian currency to the foreign authorities or the International banking system that adheres to the sanctions imposed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S department of the Treasury that enforces economic and trade sanctions based on U.S foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign countries and regimes, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers and those related to proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Much of the ramping by Iran comes in the aftermath of the country’s top nuke scientist, General Quasem Soleimani being killed by a U.S drone strike last year during the Trump administration, in a bid to tighten the noose on nuclear proliferation. Iran had withdrawn all commitments to the 2015 nuke deal imposed by the U.S. as the last arrow in the quiver. Tehran has said it’s already increasing oil exports in anticipation that Joe Biden will take a softer line. Several firms that monitor Iranian output — including Petro-Logistics SA, Kpler Ltd. and SVB International LLC — have said shipments are creeping up.
The latest development is significant to a trade that dates back to at least 200 B.C. The cultural and economic ties between the two countries were cultivated along Asia’s ancient Silk Road. The interdependence rose with China as an ally to counter U.S. influence along its borders in the Middle East and South Asia. On the other hand, Iran became an important source of energy to serve its burgeoning industries and rapidly expanding. population.