By Dalga Khatinoglu
November 13, 2019
A court in Singapore has given the owner of a tanker carrying Iranian liquid gas (LPG) a week to either come forward or it would place the vessel under the hammer.
In July, Singapore port authorities had seized two oil tankers owned by the Chinese Kunlun Shipping Company carrying Iranian petroleum products.
The two ships were registered under the names “Gas Infinity”, recently renamed as Echo Star and Gas Dragon renamed as Nexo.
Kpler, a data intelligence firm, told Radio Farda that Echo Star which used to carry Iranian LPG since last July to China, has been sanctioned by Washington, but continued its operation by using deceptive techniques to cover the origin of cargoes she was delivering – by turning off her AIS transponder while loading from Iranian terminals and receiving Iranian-sourced cargo via ship-to-ship (STS) transfers at Malacca Strait.
The vessel released last July reappeared in mid-October in Singapore ports.
Currently laden, Echo Star took cargo from Iran mid-October and was crossing Singapore Strait when it was seized again and listed on the “vessels under Sheriff’s arrest” section.
Now, the vessel has a seven-day notice to settle the judgment, or a sale by public auction will be arranged about six weeks after the arrest.
Meanwhile, the other Chinese oil tanker, Nexo, is currently idle and anchored in the Persian Gulf waters.
The U.S. added the Chinese Kunlun Shipping company to its “blacklist” for violating sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic.
The Chinese company and a sister bank are registered in the British Virgin Island.
A member of Iran-China Chamber of Commerce, Mohammad Reza Hariri, disclosed that Kunlun Bank was founded to organize Iran-China bank transactions, and skip U.S. sanctions.
“The bank’s initial capital was provided by hard currencies acquired by selling Iranian fuel and blocked in China,” Hariri said, adding, “Nonetheless, the bank currently supports the sanctions Washington has imposed on Tehran. Kunlun Bank has officially informed the Islamic Republic that it would never involve itself in deals sanctioned by the U.S.”
We are in a situation, Hariri complained, that we cannot bypass the sanctions as before. “Many ways used by Iran to skip the sanctions have been revealed, even by ourselves. Therefore, bypassing the sanctions is not as easy as it used to be.”
Earlier in 2014, Reuters reported that according to a western intelligence entity Iran used Chinese banks to transfer money from front companies owned by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps extraterritorial military arm, Qods Force.
Reuters also reported that the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) had opened several accounts in Kunlun Bank.
In the meantime, Kpler data show that Iran’s LPG exports to China reached 311,000 tons in October, declining 30% month-to-month.
China is the sole buyer of Iranian LPG and also imports a limited amount of crude oil from the Islamic Republic.