Malaysia detains tankers over illegal STS operation

US-based pressure group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) said last week that it had identified two vessels conducting an illegal ship-to-ship (STS) transfer of Iranian crude.

UANI posted a satellite image on social media of the Honduras-flagged 27-year-old 300,361 dwt tanker Artemis III and the Panama-flagged 19-year-old 159,106 dwt Ocean Hermana (IMO 9286229) conducting a ship-to-ship transfer in the Riau Archipelago, 32.1nm east of Tanjung Sedili.

After the image was posted last Tuesday October 24th, Malaysian authorities arrested the vessels, which were reported to have refused to cooperate with an inspection, which led to authorities to perform a forced boarding by helicopter.

The two ships had been spotted by a MMEA patrol boat which suspected them for carrying out the STS activities at 12:35 local time.

The Ocean Hermana reportedly had 26 crew members onboard, while the Artemis III was manned by 26 crew members. The captains of the ships involved failed to present any authorisation documents for the activities being conducted. The case was to be investigated under Section 491B (1) (K) of the Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952, Section 491B (1) (L) of the Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952 and Section 186 of the Penal Code. The captains of both ships were also being investigated under Section 186 of the Penal Code for obstructing the duty of a public servant, which carries a maximum jail sentence of two years or a fine of up to MYR10,000 (or both).

Southeast Asia has become increasingly concerned with the so-called dark fleet, not least because they tend to be old and almost certainly are not covered by an International Group Club.

The explosion of the Pablo aframax (fortunately in ballast at the time) and the grounding of the VLCC Young Yang last year highlighted the dangers. No insurer turned up to remove the Pablo, a development to which many major Asian nations were unaccustomed.

More recently, the 26-year-old 106,547 dwt aframax tanker Turba was reported as adrift for several days in the Indian Ocean, about 300km west of Indonesia.

2004-built, Panama-flagged, 81,074 gt Ocean Hermana is owned by Jiang Ping Shipping Inc care of manager Sygnius Ship Management Pvt of Kolkata, India. While Equasis lists it as being entered with West P&I, the vessel is not listed as on the Club’s book in the official database. As of October 23rd the vessel was moored at Port Dickson, Malaysia.