U.S. ‘deeply concerned’ about untrackable China ships carrying Iran oil: officials
China is the largest remaining buyer of Iranian oil after U.S. President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions on Tehran’s main export. Trump tightened U.S. sanctions in May in an effort to drive Iran’s oil sales to zero.
The sanctions are aimed at quashing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, ballistic missile program and influence in Syria, Iraq and other countries. Its oil exports have fallen to less than 400,000 barrels per day from about 2.5 million bpd.
On Sept. 25, the U.S. imposed sanctions on five Chinese individuals and two Chinese COSCO Shipping Corp subsidiaries, saying they had shipped Iranian crude oil in violation of the sanctions.
Days later, 14 COSCO Shipping Tanker (Dalian) vessels, about one-third of its fleet, stopped sending location data from their automatic identification system (AIS) between Sept. 30 and Oct. 7, ship tracking data on Refinitiv Eikon showed.
The administration said on Tuesday it had independently confirmed that COSCO had been shutting off AIS on its ships.
All but three of the ships have become traceable since Reuters’ report ran on Oct. 9. The latest locations for Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCC) Yuan Shan Hu and Cosglad Lake were still unavailable between Oct. 8 and Oct. 16, while Aframax-sized tanker Yang Mei Hu has been untraceable since Oct. 11, data showed.
COSCO Shipping Tanker (Dalian) said in an e-mail statement that none of its vessels had turned off their AIS controllers or stopped transmitting AIS signals.
Read more at: Reuters
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