More than meets the eye on Pegas / Lana oil seizure: Windward

The actions of the Greece-detained Russia-affiliated, Iranian crude carrier Pegas / Lana (IMO 9256860) were consistent with involvement in sanctions evasion, according to a blog from Israel-based marine insurance technology company Windward.

The Pegas / Lana (the name was changed in the middle of the affair) is a Russian-affiliated vessel that was grounded in April as part of new EU sanctions against Russia. Its oil cargo was then seized by the US. As a result Iran has in turn seized two Greece-flagged tankships for alleged maritime violations.

Back in April, the Pegas / Lana was assumed to be carrying Russian oil and to be controlled by the Russian bank Promsvyazbank (PSB). But a few days after the story broke, Greek authorities released the ship. They claimed that official EU sanctions at the time meant that they could not detain it, but they turned it away anyway due to newly emerged “moral sanctions”, led by market entities rather than EU rules.

That left the ship stranded near Greek waters due to mechanical issues. The watchdog group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) then claimed that the vessel was really carrying sanctioned Iranian oil, rather than Russian crude. That in turn led the US government to seize the sanctioned Iranian crude oil from the vessel, while it was in Greek waters.

Windward took a deeper dive into this mysterious situation, with a Russian-crewed vessel in the Mediterranean apparently carrying Iranian oil.

The crude oil tanker Perun arrived at the Khor Fakkan “C,” a port waiting area in the UAE, on June 10th 2021, and anchored there until July 1st. During this period it changed its name from “Perun” to “Pegas.” Shortly after that the ship loitered in several port waiting areas in the UAE before finally it departed to its newly transmitted destination, Basra, Iraq, on July 11th.

The vessel’s reported ETA to Iraq was July 13th, according to its AIS data, but it was drifting in the Imam Khomeini (Iran) port waiting area between July 13th and July 31st.

Windward observed that this anomalous drifting activity was followed by 18 days of dark activity (disabled AIS transmissions) that began when it was about 25nm west of Kharg Island, Iran. This is one of Iran’s main oil loading points.

On August 19th last year the vessel resumed AIS transmission, now in Omani waters. Shortly afterwards it reported a draft change from 8.2m to 14.7m – indicating that it likely loaded cargo while the vessel was dark.

The ship then proceeded towards Sohar (Oman) and back to Khor Fakkan. On August 22nd 2021, the Pegas departed the Hormuz Strait and began its journey towards Turkey and Greece, where it was eventually detained by Greek authorities in mid-April 2022.

Windward said that the suspicious vessel behaviour was just one angle of this story. The Pegas (by now renamed the Lana) is owned by the sanctioned Russian company PSB Leasing LLC (not the bank, as was originally suspected). This company owns a total of six vessels, including Inda (formerly known as “Linda”, IMO 9256858) , which was also on UANI’s radar for being suspected of Iranian oil smuggling. Inda was flagged by Windward’s platform as a high-risk vessel in January 2021, for a flagged GNSS manipulation event near Malaysia, which Windward has noted was a known hub for transferring Iranian crude.

Windward analysis showed clear similarities in the behavioural patterns of the Inda and Pegas.

Pegas’ (now Lana’s) change of identity, quickly followed by long lasting dark activity in the Gulf in July/August last year, indicated a ship trying to conceal its identity prior to illicit behaviour, said Windward.

This was combined with the fact that the ship was owned by a sanctioned company that already had a vessel in its fleet that was acting similarly (and that tampered with its AIS location to transfer sanctioned cargo). “Pegas has both the behavioural indicators and ownership/management links to suggest involvement in sanctions evasion”, Windward concluded.

2003-built, Iran-flagged, 61,991 gt Lana is owned and managed by Transmorflot Inc of Akhty, Russia (Equasis information). As of May 31st the vessel was at anchorage in Karystos, Aegean Sea. It was renamed the Lana on March 1st 2022.

2003-built, Russia-flagged, 61,991 gt Inda is owned and ISM managed by Transmorflot LLC of Akhty, Russia. Commercial manager is Marine Trans Gipping of Astrakhan, Russia (Equasis information).