An Iranian oil tanker being pursued by the United States since its recent release from Gibraltar turned off its tracker Monday as it approached Syria and Lebanon.
The vessel was on a northern course and some 45 nautical miles from Syria when it turned off its Automatic Identification System (AIS) tracking beacon around noon EST and disappeared, according to MarineTraffic.com. The move echoes a pattern of Iranian oil tankers who typically turn off their trackers once reaching Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea, so as to hide their delivery destination from US sanctions.
Authorities in Gibraltar said the Adrian Darya 1 – formerly known as Grace 1 – was bound for a refinery in Baniyas, Syria when they seized the vessel in early July. The vessel raised an Iranian flag and had a new name painted on its side on August 18 prior to departing Gibraltar after authorities there rejected a US bid to detain it.
The tanker is carrying approximately 2.1 million barrels of Iranian light crude oil, worth an estimated $130 million. The United States alleged in a federal court that vessel is owned by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), listed as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) by the US. The designation provides for greater authorization in seizure of assets, and particularly as the US has imposed sanctions on Iran’s energy industry.
Iranian officials said the cargo was sold, although they did not identify the buyer. A lead analyst at the data firm Refinitiv quoted by Fox News said it was likely that the ship was delivering its cargo to Syria, since Damascus has historically taken a monthly delivery of 1 million barrels of crude oil from Iran.