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Lebanese Companies Smuggle Iranian Crude To Syria Against Sanctions

A couple of Lebanese companies owned by a Syrian businessman on the U.S. sanction list are helping to bring Iranian oil into the country, Albin Szakola reports for The National, citing a company analysis and data from TankerTrackers.com.

The TankerTrackers.com data shows that two tankers have received Iranian crude from other vessels off the Syrian coast with their transponders off, as many Iranian vessels do to avoid detection while en route to their destination.

One of the tankers, Sandro, is property of Lebanese firm Sandro Overseas. Just five days after the company acquired the vessel at the end of May, the tanker turned its transponder off near Cyprus, effectively disappearing from the maritime map, Szakola reports.

TankerTrackers.com detected the vessel later, with satellite imaging revealing it loaded 350,000 barrels of refined products from Jasmine, an Iranian-flagged tanker, which is on a U.S. list of tankers suspected of illicit activities related to Iran.

The Sandro then took the load to a location that has so far remained hidden from the satellites’ view. A month later, on July 25, according to TankerTrackers.com, the Sandro received a load of crude from Silvia I, an Iranian tanker that Washington has sanctioned, off the Syrian coast. Since that transfer, the Sandro has stayed in the area, the tracking company told The National.

Syria is the object of EU and U.S. sanctions that include oil supplies. Yet Iran is a close ally of the Assad government and has been shipping crude there despite the sanctions. One such vessel, presumably carrying crude for Syria, became the spark that ignited a conflict between Tehran and London earlier this year, after Gibraltar authorities intercepted it and seized it for violating Syrian sanctions.

This led to retaliation from Iran, whose Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps later seized a UK-flagged vessel, the Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on August 12 2019 said:
    Before the start of the civil war in 2011, Syria used to produce almost 400,000 barrels a day (b/d) of crude oil and export 100,000 b/d to the European Union.

    Syria is now being forced to import its oil needs because its oil-producing wells in the Deir Ez Zour region are occupied by US forces and their proxies.

    In such a situation, Syria has every right under internationa law to satisfy its oil needs legally or illegally. The United Nations neither recognize US sanctions on Iran and Syria nor US occupation of Syrian oilfields.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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