Iran tanker the UK detained may be about to offload its oil

Satellite image from Planet Labs Inc. appears to show the Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya-1 off the coast of Tartus, Syria, on Sept. 8, 2019.


By AARON CLARK AND SERENE CHEONG | Bloomberg | Published: October 3, 2019

There's growing speculation the Iranian-flagged oil supertanker that was previously detained off Gibraltar is about to offload its cargo onto a smaller vessel.

Adrian Darya 1, which had been held by the U.K. on suspicion that it was supplying crude to Syria in breach of sanctions, is now tethered to another Iran-flagged vessel called Jasmine, according to a satellite image from Maxar Technologies Inc. That could mean the tanker is preparing to discharge part of its cargo via a ship-to-ship transfer, according to shipbrokers who asked not to be identified because they aren't authorized to speak to the media.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab last month accused Tehran of selling oil to the Syrian regime in an "unacceptable violation of international norms" and breaching assurances given when the Adrian Darya 1 was released. The U.S. issued a warrant to seize the vessel in mid-August, alleging an unlawful use of the American financial system to support and finance the sale of crude by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps to Damascus. The image from Maxar, however, suggests the tanker may only be offloading its cargo this week.

Iran's ambassador to the U.K. said in a tweet last month that oil from the Adrian Darya 1 was sold to a private company while the vessel was at sea without breaching any commitment.

Adrian Darya 1, a very-large crude carrier previously named Grace 1, has been keenly watched since British forces seized the tanker off Gibraltar in early July in violation of European Union sanctions. The vessel was released the following month despite objections from the U.S. after Iran provided assurances that the ship wouldn't sail to a destination sanctioned by the EU.

The ship-to-ship transfer, an out-at-sea maneuver that is typically conducted in calmer waters, requires tankers to be positioned alongside each other before the cargo can be transferred via mooring lines.

Maxar's satellite captured an image that showed their connection via mooring lines and a deployed crane on the starboard side of the supertanker at 12:16 p.m. local time on Wednesday. The company is an information provider that uses space-based technology. Ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg shows ___

Bloomberg's Takaaki Iwabu contributed to this report.