Watchdog Says Swedish Shipping Company Skirting Iran Sanctions

United Against Nuclear Iran shows Swedish ship running routes on Iran coast

The tanker Overseas Reymar / AP
• July 18, 2013 1:20 pm


A Swedish shipping company currently operates a tanker that has been exclusively making stops at Iranian oil ports and could potentially be carrying fuel to several Iranian military bases, according to several months of ship tracking data provided to the Washington Free Beacon by an Iran watchdog group.

Sweden's Stockholm Chartering AB controls a ship that appears to exclusively run routes across Iran's southern border in the Persian Gulf. Such deliveries would constitute a violation of U.S. and European sanction on Iran, according to the data provided by United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), a watchdog group that pressures American and European companies to cut economic ties with Tehran.

The ship, named Persia, was spotted over the past two months docking near several Iranian ports that are known as hubs for petrochemical exports and its military, according to UANI. The watchdog has petitioned the company to halt its deliveries and has alerted the European Union to its potentially illegal dealings.

The "Stoc Holding-controlled vessel ‘Persia' appears to operate a dedicated route in support of Iran's petrochemical exports and advertises ties to sanctioned Iranian entities on its website," UANI CEO and former United Nations Ambassador Mark Wallace wrote to the company on Wednesday.

"Stoc Holding's business activities undermine U.S., E.U., and U.N. sanctions as well as the efforts of responsible non-governmental actors to isolate the Iranian regime and counter Iran’s smuggling and proliferation activities," Wallace wrote. The ‘Persia' appears to be one of the most active non-Iranian vessels frequenting Iran’s petrochemical facilitates at Bandar Imam Khomenei, Lavan Island and the port of Chah Bahar, Iran. The ‘Persia', also appears to operate a regular and dedicated route between these Iranian facilities."

The Persia's activities are particularly concerning to experts because it was seen traveling from Iran's primary refineries to multiple locations that are near Iranian navy bases.

"UANI is highly concerned that petrochemical deliveries made by the ‘Persia' to Chah Bahar may risk providing support for Islamic Republic of Iran Navy forces operating out of the nearby port of Konarak and Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force forces operating out of the nearby Chah Bahar/Konarak Aerodrome," Wallace wrote.

Ship tracking data clearly shows the Persia docking in Iran's Chah Bahar port, which is near military facilities located at Konarak, according to Martin House, UANI's lead ship analyst. Iranian military subs could be spotted in the vicinity of Konarak, according to detailed maps provided by UANI.

"There's enough circumstantial evidence to warrant us asking the questions" about possible deliveries to these military bases, said House, who helms UANI's Maritime Intelligence Network and Rogue Vessel Analysis (MINERVA) system. "Our stance is that given the circumstantial evidence of its regular deliveries to a small port most notable for its proximity to major Iranian military bases, it is a worthy question to ask of Stoc whether its deliveries to Chah Bahar risk the supply of petrochemical product for use by the Iranian military."

The Persia is particularly unique because it is a "product tanker," rather than a full-scale crude oil ship, which are much larger. This type of ship is "generally used to ferry refined petrochemical products and chemicals from refineries to their points of consumption or further transshipment," according to Martin.

Stoc Holding's Persia ship is also insured by Iran's in-house insurance company, raising further red flags among UANI's analysts.

Iran's Kish P&I is an illicit maritime insurance operation that allows mostly Iranian ships to continue global shipping operations and skirt economic sanctions. The Persia is "one of the few" non-Iranian ships to be covered by Kish P&I, according to UANI's Martin.

"UANI is concerned that P&I coverage for the ‘Persia' is provided by Kish P&I, the Iranian regime's fraudulent P&I club that operates as part of a larger scheme to fraudulently classify and insure vessels working for Iran," Wallace wrote to the company. "Simply put, Stoc Holding appears to be profiting from its involvement in the Iranian regime's schemes to prop up its sanctioned petrochemical and shipping sectors. Such involvement is also exposing Stoc Holding to the risk that its services are providing support for Iran's military forces."

Stockholm Chartering does not appear to be hiding its relationship with Iran. The company features photographs of Iranian tankers on the homepage of its website.

Stockholm Chartering did not deny the charges against it when contacted Thursday by the Free Beacon.

A representative in the company's headquarters in Stockholm said, "that's nothing we can talk about" when asked if the Persia was working on behalf of Iran.

When pressed to explain the company's relationship with Iran, the Stockholm Chartering representative hung up on a reporter.

A follow-up email sent to Stockholm CEO Bo Andersson was not returned by press time.

UANI noted that Stockholm's activities could constitute a major violation of European Union sanctions on Iran.

"Sweden-based Stoc Holding should also be aware of E.U. sanctions leveled against entities facilitating Iran's access to the international shipping industry and transport of Iranian petrochemical products," Wallace informed the company. "For instance, in 2012 the E.U. prohibited E.U. entities ‘to transport crude oil or petroleum products if they originate in Iran, or are being exported from Iran to any other country.'"

Former Pentagon advisor Michael Rubin said Iran has ramped up activity at its naval sites.

"Ever since 2008, the Iranians have made a concerted effort to expand their naval activity from the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean," Rubin said. "They have really upgraded their facilities at Jask and Chah Bahar."

"To use the Chah Bahar port helps the IRGC resupply itself and extend its reach into Afghanistan, Pakistan, and perhaps even India because it allows the IRGC to escape more careful monitoring in the Persian Gulf and bypass the vulnerability and logistical difficulty of trucking supplies down to Baluchistan," he said.

UANI's actions against Stockholm are part of a larger campaign to publicly shame companies that continue to do business with Iran.

The group's MINERVA ship tracking center based out of New York and operates in tandem with hubs in Hong Kong and elsewhere. Analysts track Iranian-affiliated ships around the clock and make note of any potentially illegal or suspicious activities.

UANI has cited multiple companies that have helped Iranian ships make deceptive deliveries under false flags, or those belonging to other countries.

Published under: Iran, Middle East