In 2019, the "sub-sanctioned" Iran began to increase oil supplies in circumvention of sanctions. Mostly tankers went to China and the Mediterranean: Syria and Turkey. And by the beginning of 2022, the fleet for transporting sanctioned Iranian and Venezuelan oil had tripled. It accounted for approximately 400 million barrels per year. And such a "ghost armada" successfully undermines the business of transport companies.
Why did Iranian tankers get such a name?
Last year, The Mail on Sunday reported: 123 Iranian vessels circumvent sanctions on oil trade. They change their location to GPS and create the appearance that they are anchored at sea, but at this time they are loading/unloading at the port. They also actively forge documents, use flags of different countries, disable identification systems and use front companies. Oil is often loaded onto several vessels and mixed before reaching its destination. This is also the case with "toxic" Russian oil.
At the same time, Iran has a whole "underground" financial system for trade bypassing sanctions, writes the WSJ. It includes accounts in foreign banks, intermediary companies outside the country and firms that coordinate prohibited trade. The annual turnover is estimated at tens of billions of dollars.
And Iranian banks attract affiliated firms to manage trade under sanctions. They register "daughters" outside the country, become trusted for Iranian traders, and then trade with foreign buyers of Iranian oil in foreign currency through accounts in foreign banks.
Will the "Iranian Armada" help Russia?
She is already helping her to circumvent sanctions, writes the Daily Mail. The international non-profit organization United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) accuses the Iranian navy of cooperating with Russian oil companies. Allegedly, Russian oilmen are using "Tehran's black market vessels" to circumvent the export ban. And the US, the EU and the UK are even calling for the formation of a team of "ghostbusters".
At least 5 Iranian "ghost armadas" are transporting oil from Russia to China and India, according to UANI. And recently, the WSJ reported that Zamanoil from the UAE was linking Iranian and Russian oil workers. The US Treasury accused her of working with the Russian government and Rosneft on the supply of Iranian oil to Europe.
However, at the end of March, Iran denied a "secret offer from Russia" to help it circumvent sanctions in exchange for support in concluding a nuclear deal. And in May, he noted that he could not be a competitor of Russia in the global oil and gas market. The country has its own regular customers, and Iran sells the maximum amount of oil.
So officially, Iran does not seem to be planning to use its "army of ghosts" to help for the benefit of Russia, despite the fact that these countries have "converged" before. But then there was no question of an embargo on Russian oil and there was no ban on ship insurance. In the new reality, the actions of the "ghost armada" are quite difficult to predict.