Indonesia seizes two VLCCs conducting Iranian oil transfer

The Indonesian coast guard seized Iranian-flagged VLCC Horse (IMO 9362061) and Panamanian-flagged VLCC Freya (IMO 9180164) early on Sunday January 24th over a suspected illegal transfer of oil in the country’s waters.

Iran on Monday asked Indonesia to provide details about the seizure of the Horse, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said.

Khatibzadeh said that the seizure was over a “a technical issue and it happens in shipping field”, adding that “our Ports Organization and the ship owner company are looking to find the cause of the issue and resolve it”.

Indonesian Coast Guard spokesman Wisnu Pramandita had been slightly less diplomatic on the Sunday. He said that the tankers were seized in waters off Kalimantan province and that they had been escorted to Batam island in Riau Island Province for further investigation.

“The tankers, first detected at 05:30 local time on Sunday, concealed their identity by not showing their national flags, turning off automatic identification systems and did not respond to a radio call,” Wisnu said.

Wisnu said that the ships had been caught in the act of transferring oil from the Horse to the Freya. He added that there had been an oil spill around the receiving tanker, and that 61 crew members from both vessels had been detained.

Both the supertankers are capable of carrying 2m barrels of oil. They were last spotted earlier this month off Singapore, according to shipping data on Refinitiv Eikon. At that time the Horse was almost fully loaded with oil while the Freya was empty, the data showed.

Iran has been accused in recent months of concealing the destination of its oil sales by disabling tracking systems on its tankers. This has made it difficult to assess how much crude oil Iran is succeeding in exporting. The country is currently sanctioned by the US, ever since the previous US administration withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six major powers.

2008-built, Iran-flagged, 163,660 gt Horse is owned and managed by NITC of Tehran, Iran.

2000-built, Panama-flagged, 160,216 gt Freya is owned by Freya Ltd care of manager Shanghai Future Ship Management Co Ltd of Shanghai, China.

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