Indonesia captures Iranian tanker for suspected illegal oil transfer

Pizaro Gozali Idrus
Indonesia captures Iranian tanker for suspected illegal oil transfer The Iranian-flagged oil tanker MT Arman 114, (left) , and the Cameroon-flagged MT S Tinos, which were spotted conducting a ship-to-ship oil transfer without a permit, according to the Maritime Security Agency (Bakamla), are seen near North Natuna Sea, Indonesia, July 7, 2023.
[Handout Indonesia’s Maritime Security Agency (Bakamla)/via Reuters]

Indonesia’s coast guard said Tuesday it had seized an Iranian tanker and its crew suspected of illegally transferring oil to another ship in the nation’s territorial waters.

After the United States targeted Iranian oil exports with sanctions in 2018, Tehran has allegedly used various methods to conceal its oil transfers, such as disabling their onboard tracking systems.

The Iranian supertanker, which was detained last week, had set its automatic identification system (AIS) as showing its location in the Red Sea when it was in Indonesia’s waters, said Aan Kurnia, the chief of the Maritime Security Agency (Bakamla).

“This is deception,” Aan said about the incident that took place on July 7 off Indonesia’s Natuna islands.

“We followed the rules of engagement to stop the ship, from communication to warning shots. We shot in the air, in front of them, behind them, but they still did not stop,” Aan said.

The other ship, a Cameroon-flagged tanker, managed to escape while the Iranian one sailed into Malaysian waters, Aan said.

After being contacted by the Indonesians, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency sent a helicopter with a special forces team to board the Iranian tanker and take control of it, he said. 

A team of Indonesian inspectors took over the custody of the vessel, which was then escorted to Batam, an Indonesian island near Singapore, Aan added.

The tanker was carrying 272,000 metric tons (2.3 million barrels) of fuel. The cargo was estimated to be worth 4.6 trillion rupiah (U.S. $303 million), the Indonesian authorities said. The crew members included Egyptians, Syrians and Ukrainians.

“It was clear that these ships were up to no good, and one of them had been scrapped in 2018. So these two ships were not legitimate,” Aan said.

This was not the first time that Indonesia had seized an Iranian tanker for a suspected illegal oil transfer. 

In 2021, it seized another Iranian tanker and a Panamanian tanker over similar allegations. The Iranian tanker was released months later after a court process. 

A court in Batam handed suspended sentences of one year each to the captains of the vessels after finding them guilty of violating Indonesia’s navigational rules by conducting an oil transfer at sea without a permit.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.