The shady mechanisms of Venezuela and Iran to traffic oil and circumvent sanctions

Nicolás Maduro, the now-defunct tanker S-TIINOS and the Ayatollah Khamenei. The ties between both regimes are strengthened by the force of crude oil trafficking (Infobae)

Jose Gonzalez from PDVSA signed the Cargo manifest tanker S-TINOS (IMO 9166754) when they finished pumping the 1,859,106 barrels of crude. Your final destination would be Iran. The captain of the boat also left his signature, identified under the usual Russian name “Sergey”. Nothing should attract attention in the Puerto José Terminal, from Anzoátegui, in Venezuela, last November 30 when both protagonists shook hands saying goodbye. It was just another routine activity. Except for one detail: the S-TINOS no longer exists. It was scrapped in August 2018 in Chittagong, Bangladesh, one of the largest ship graveyards in the world.

Infobae had access to documents leaked by Caribbean oil officials that show how the Venezuelan and Iranian regimes “resuscitate” ships to avoid the sanctions imposed by the Treasury Department North American that weigh on their administrations and thus increase their business. That would be one of the mechanisms used to manage to commercialize its main raw material below the radars. But a detailed analysis of the vessels entering the ports of Nicolas Maduro that controls PDVSA awakened the alarms that allowed him to trace to the depths of the Bengal gulf the true destiny of S-TINOS.

An official who witnessed that irregular transaction knew that something was not completely in order when he verified that the gigantic ship category Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) which was in the José Storage and Boarding Terminal (TAEJ) from that port of Anzoátegui It had written in full view of the world another denomination to the one that appeared in the international declaration that indicates what is loaded or unloaded from a ship and that the parties involved accompany with their signature.

The tanker S-TINOS in the port of Chittagong
The S-TINOS tanker in the port of Chittagong, Bangladesh, in August 2018 ready for scrapping. Its name was used by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard of Iran and by the Maduro regime to traffic oil (Marine Traffick)

The ship that moored for hours in one of the most important ports of Venezuela actually carried another denomination and another number of IMO, the identification of each of the ships that grants the International Maritime Organization. This number is unchangeable throughout the life of the ship. In this case, the one who actually entered the Venezuelan port terminal was the MT-LILU (IMO 9216717), with flag of Cameroon, but that in the official records he impersonated himself under another identity. Its true owner could soon face problems: either he becomes an accomplice of those who rented him the operation or he takes actions to avoid being the target of the sanctions of Washington. You must choose and soon, before your ship can no longer navigate freely.

Maduro’s partners

Since Venezuela decided to become an international pariah, has as one of its main economic support to Iran. Russia Y China they also assist and squeeze it, but the exchanges between theocracy and Miraflores they meet several lustrums. They go back to the times when the former president and lieutenant colonel Hugo Chavez He was enjoying the bonanza of crude oil at astronomical prices that allowed him to be the all-powerful president who achieved perpetuity by storming justice, the media, persecuting opponents and reforming the law. Constitution. Also choosing his partners -whether they are close in geography or transoceanic- to be able to tie their destinies under the power of the same black gold.

Within the Iranian structure, it is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard the one in charge of keeping its operations active abroad with different forms of financing. At the depth of that organization, it is the elite unit known as Quds forces the one that illegally trades with Caracas the oil of the Venezuelans.

The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Hosein Salami, in a file photo (Photo: DPA)
The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Hosein Salami, in a file photo (Photo: DPA) (Rouzbeh Fouladi / ZUMA Wire / dpa /)

The Revolutionary Guard is a military organization –designated as a terrorist in 2019– in charge of intervening in different scenarios, both nearby and in other parts of the globe. In Middle East feed Hezbollah; at Lebanon, sustained the dictator Bashar Al-Assad during the civil war in Syria, which took hundreds of thousands of lives; and harasses the enemy kingdom of Saudi Arabia, providing weapons, intelligence and money to the Houthis of Yemen.

In Latin America, the terrorist organization is also known. Venezuela gives shelter to their delegates from Hezbollah giving access to passports, citizenship and drug trafficking, and the Triple Border shared between Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina has its permanent and threatening presence.

But, above all, two events that occurred in Buenos Aires bear the mark of radicalized men of the Ayatollah Khamenei: brains of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard were behind the attacks against the Israeli Embassy in 1992 and against the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) in 1994. Maduro could stutter if someone from the Rio de la Plata Foreign Ministry dared to demand explanations from him for his illicit dealings with the Iranians. The Caribbean dictator can remain calm: that will not happen.

Transactions between the two regimes are key to sustaining that elite command corps of Tehran and its operations abroad. The Islamic force uses these resources that it provides Mature to continue financing terror around the world. As most of the officials of the Miraflores Palace, they are also subject to sanctions from the Treasury Department North American. They don’t have many doors to knock on to do legitimate business.

The key to avoiding sanctions, trafficking crude oil and being able to unite the ports of both nations is that the maneuver not be discovered by those who control maritime traffic. To achieve this, they make one ship pass through another. But how do they achieve “hideThe real ship that will take the barrels?

The trajectory of the rented vessel should not be traced under its original name. Both the Islamic Revolutionary Guard What PDVSA they interfere with location systems to escape satellite tracking radars. This technology is known as Automatic Identification System (AIS, for its acronym in English) than in the case of MT-LILU It was faked to prevent its true routes from being revealed. This irregular mechanism is called AIS spoofing, similar to that used by some Chinese fishing vessels to circumvent international controls in protected areas or maritime territories under foreign sovereignty.

Had the Cameroonian-flagged ship been located on its way to a Venezuelan port, it would have been intercepted in the Caribbean and sanctioned by the North American authorities. Thanks to AIS spoofing the MT-LILU managed to hide for an indeterminate time from radar -or was it “located”In another sea- and entered Puerto José Terminal under the temporary name of the already disappeared S-TINOS for the Venezuelan oil operators and the captain “SergeyDriving it.

S TINOS construction and scrapping data in 2018. Its name was used by Iran and Venezuela to evade sanctions and traffic oil (FleetMon)
S TINOS construction and scrapping data in 2018. Its name was used by Iran and Venezuela to evade sanctions and traffic oil (FleetMon)

One more time, the head of Chavismo would seem to choose his partners poorly. Due to the alarming ineffectiveness evidenced by the drop in crude oil production, the Venezuelan regime is looking in that country for a client to get it out of its economic troubles. However, as a consequence of the warnings that crush the free movement of both parties, the results are poor. What is the price that PDVSA places on the barrels of crude it sells to the Quds Forces? What is the sense of Venezuela maintaining commercial ties with a visibly incompetent administration like the Iranian whose country is going through a severe economic and social crisis?

For the moment, it would appear that the ongoing challenges of Caracas to the democracies of West – electoral fraud, systematic violation of human rights – prevent him from returning soon to a path of private and legal business. “Ordering the economy should be a priority for Venezuelans to regain some of the quality of life that they used to have until not many years ago and for the dictatorship to gain more time and popular support, although it is impossible for it to do so in large numbers.”Says a former Chavista governor who prefers to remain anonymous to continue his life in the country’s capital. “They should also change everything in PDVSA. They are too inoperative”, He concludes.

The port, the ghost and the ship everyone is looking for

The Puerto José Terminal It is located in Anzoátegui, to the eastern Venezuela. It is one of the most important in the country due to the volume of crude that moves day and night. More than 60% of the vessels that arrive there are related to the oil industry. And the maximum length that its docks allow is 332 meters.

The missing S-TINOS It was built in 1998 and carried the flag of Palau, an archipelago of Oceania. Its dimensions were similar to that of the rest of the tankers: a length of 333 meters with a beam of 58 meters. For just one meter, I could not have entered José Terminal. It has been listed for three years and four months as “Out of service.

MT LILU, Cameroon-flagged freighter, in Singapore on November 16, 2007, when it was still called Antonis I. Angelicoussis (FleetMon)
MT LILU, Cameroon-flagged freighter, in Singapore on November 16, 2007, when it was still called Antonis I. Angelicoussis. It is currently off the coast of Africa, in the Atlantic Ocean (FleetMon)

It was scrapped in Chittagong, an emblematic place where a large part of the maritime freighters from all over the planet come to an end. Most of its unusable remains are in the depths of the gulf of that port; other parts were finished off and used as spare parts for other ships. And it is in that part of the Indian Ocean where it still appears today in all ship tracking systems since 2018.

On the other hand the MT-LILU It was built in 2000. It was born under another name: Antonis I. Angelicoussis (a container ship with a similar name is of the Greek flag) and its name was later changed to the current one. Its flag is Cameroonian, with the same one that the false one entered S-TINOS to Venezuela. Its dimensions are almost identical to its missing twin: it has a length of 332 meters and a beam of 58 meters. Just right for Joseph Terminal. His last record in the location radars – at the end of this note – showed him in the South Atlantic, off the coast of Africa. Nothing said about what his final destination would be.

Twitter: @TotiPI


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