Ship owners sailing four Iranian fuel cargoes to US for seizure

A handout image released by the US Central Command on August 13, 2020 reportedly shows Iranian forces boarding a tanker in international waters in the Gulf of Oman, just 32 kilometers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, using a helicopter and two ships to take over the vessel for several hours. (AFP)
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Updated 14 August 2020

Ship owners sailing four Iranian fuel cargoes to US for seizure

  • Iran had planned to transport the gasoline to Venezuela, a supply line that both Tehran and Caracas have flaunted in defiance of US sanctions

LONDON/MEXICO CITY: Four tankers carrying Iranian fuel cargoes covered by a US warrant for seizure are sailing to the United States after talks between US authorities and the ship owners, a US government source and a shipping source said on Thursday.
Iran had planned to transport the gasoline to Venezuela, a supply line that both Tehran and Caracas have flaunted in defiance of US sanctions. Washington has imposed sanctions on both countries to choke oil exports and deprive them of their main source of revenue.
Iranian action against another ship on Wednesday in the Gulf was in retaliation against the Greek owner of some of the vessels, the government source and two shipping sources said.
US prosecutors filed a lawsuit in July to seize the gasoline aboard the four tankers, and a judge subsequently issued a warrant for seizure. The fuel cannot be seized until the tankers enter US territorial waters.
The owners of the four vessels agreed to have them sail to the United States after talks with the US government, the sources said. The warrant only covers the cargoes aboard the Liberia-flagged Bella, Bering, Pandi and Luna, not the vessels.
The US Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security and State Department declined to comment on Thursday. Neither Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA nor Venezuela’s oil or information ministries responded to requests for comment.
The United States has previously threatened to impose sanctions on any shipowners and vessels involved in oil trade with Venezuela and Iran.
The four tankers are owned and managed by companies controlled by Greece-based firms Vienna LTD and Palermo SA. The fifth vessel, the Wila, which was boarded by Iranian forces near the Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday, is owned by Bandit Shipping and controlled by Greece-based IMS SA.
Vienna, Palermo and IMS did not immediately reply to requests for comment sent outside normal office hours.
News of the US seizure of the Iranian cargoes was first reported on Thursday by the Wall Street Journal.
Tensions between Iran and the United States increased last year following a series of incidents involving shipping in and near the Middle East Gulf.
In July 2019, Iran briefly seized a British-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf after Britain seized the Iranian tanker Grace 1, accused of violating sanctions on Syria.
The United States had issued a warrant for the vessel and Brian Hook, then the State Department’s top Iran official, sent emails to its captain saying the Trump administration was offering him several million dollars to steer the tanker to a country that would impound it on behalf of Washington. The attempt failed, and the oil was eventually sold to the Assad government in Syria.


Philippines places southern city in coronavirus lockdown

Updated 4 min 24 sec ago

Philippines places southern city in coronavirus lockdown

  • Lanao del Sur province and its capital, Marawi city, will fall under a lockdown due to infection spikes in recent weeks
MANILA: One southern Philippine province and its war-battered capital will be placed under a mild lockdown next month and the rest of the country will be under more relaxed restrictions to boost the battered economy of the country counting the most coronavirus infections in Southeast Asia.
President Rodrigo Duterte announced the quarantine restrictions for October in televised remarks Monday night. Lanao del Sur province and its capital, Marawi city, will fall under a lockdown starting Thursday due to infection spikes in recent weeks.
Most of Marawi’s commercial and downtown areas were destroyed after hundreds of Daesh group-aligned militants laid siege to the mosque-studded city in May 2017 and the military launched a massive offensive and airstrikes to quell the five-month uprising. Many residents remain displaced, now staying with relatives or in government-constructed housing units.
Duterte and officials did not provide more specifics on Marawi, but a mild lockdown would restrict most residents at home except for medical emergencies and buying food and other essential trips. Shopping malls and other vital businesses can operate partially but leisure and entertainment centers, along with fitness gyms and movie theaters should be closed.
Metropolitan Manila and five other cities will remain under general quarantine restrictions with more businesses and public transport allowed to partially operate on condition people wear face masks and shields and stay safely apart.
Classes in public schools are scheduled to resume online belatedly on Oct. 5 due to the pandemic.
The Philippines has confirmed more than 307,000 cases of coronavirus infection and 5,381 people have died from COVID-19 as of Monday.