The crew of oil tankers spend a day or two deploying large sheets of nylon tarp. (Google)

September 10, 2021

Tanker analysts are using satellite imagery to detect more and more desperate ships trying to disguise themselves from their sanctions-busting activities by covering their decks with nylon tarps.

“Over the past year, we have seen a lot of oil tankers pull up in port in both Iran and Venezuela to load up on a couple of million barrels at a time. To better disguise themselves from satellites, the crew spend a day or two deploying large sheets of nylon tarp. The majority go for blue but the orange ones seem pretty nice,” Samir Madani, co-founder of, told Splash today.

Other ship spotters have also been tracking this phenomenon including non-profit United Against Nuclear Iran.

Commenting on the various images of barely camouflaged tankers, Adis Ajdin, Splash’s chief correspondent, quipped: “It’s like disguising an elephant with an ant really.”

Analysis from tanker brokers Gibson in May suggested up to 10% and 6% of the VLCC and suezmax fleets respectively are involved in sanctions-busting activity.

Braemar ACM reported 10 days ago that shipments of oil from Iran and Venezuela have been reported as originating from Malaysia after cargoes were transferred in Malaysian waters to avoid US sanctions.


About Track Persia

Track Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.