Iran is trying evade US sanctions by secretly storing oil bound for Asia at a little-known port in Malaysia.
The night transfers near the port of Labuan reveal Tehran’s desperation to protect its oil revenues after the imposition of an embargo by the European Union, which previously bought almost a quarter of the country’s crude exports.
In the last month, two Iranian-owned tankers, the Lantana and Motion, have off-loaded three million barrels of oil near Labuan, an island port close to the coast of Borneo, according to Reuters Freight Fundamentals, which tracks global shipping.
Another tanker was expected in Labuan this month, but is currently moored off the coast of south-west Malaysia.
These vessels are operated by the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), a state-owned enterprise blacklisted by Washington. The oil from the Lantana and Motion has been transferred to two storage vessels under cover of darkness without the knowledge of the Malaysian authorities, according to a Malaysian-based shipping source. “That operation took place literally in the dark of night. They didn’t even use a proper operator with experience to carry out the STS (ship-to-ship transfer),” said the source.
Both the storage vessels, which received the oil from the Iranian tankers, are owned and leased by a complex network of companies based in the Far East.