An advocacy group says the Islamic Republic has illegally sent over 337 million barrels of crude oil to China since 2021, worth approximately $22 billion.
According to United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) estimates, Iran’s daily oil exports in violation of US sanctions soared from 825,000 barrels per day in March 2020 to 1.34 million bpd in March 2022, including just under 900,000 barrels per day to China.
UANI announced on Tuesday that its campaign to identify and track rogue vessel operators engaged in the Iran's oil and gas smuggling has stymied Tehran’s efforts to circumvent sanctions, leading to 100 vessels being stripped of their flags by authorities worldwide.
The Islamic Republic has a “ghost armada” of 182 rogue foreign vessels -- distinct from but complementing Iran’s own National Iranian Tanker Company fleet – that evades tracking and scrutiny and skirts US sanctions and exploits regulatory loopholes to ship millions of barrels of oil.
Every commercial vessel must be registered to the flag of a country to have docking rights and travel globally, these flag states are responsible for enforcing regulations.
UANI detects rogue operators misusing flags as part of Iran’s smuggling activities – often accompanied by the formation of new shell and front companies, ownership and name changes, and even alterations to ships’ physical markings, as well as flag-hopping, which involves repeatedly switching a ship’s flag to different national registries.
The group then alerts relevant authorities to take action, and when the vessels are "de-flagged,” the Islamic Republic is unable to complete the transfer that generates the export revenues.