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U.S. Blacklists Master of Iranian Tanker Adrian Darya 1

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The Adrian Darya 1 at anchor off Gibraltar (video still via social media)

By The Maritime Executive 2019-08-30 17:44:23

The U.S. Treasury has designated the closely-watched Iranian tanker Adrian Darya 1 as a "blocked property" using anti-terrorism rules crafted after the Sept. 11 attacks. Consistent with prior warnings from the U.S. State Department, Treasury also blacklisted the vessel's master, identified as Capt. Akhilesh Kumar, using measures targeting "those providing support to terrorism or acts of terrorism." The State Department did not name any additional members of the vessel's crew. 

The United States has designated the Iranian government's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization, and it considers the transport of Iranian oil to be effectively equivalent to enabling terrorism. 

“Vessels like the Adrian Darya 1 enable the IRGC-QF to ship and transfer large volumes of oil, which they attempt to mask and sell illicitly to fund the regime’s malign activities and propagate terrorism,” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury's under-secretary for terrorism. “Anyone providing support to the Adrian Darya 1 risks being sanctioned. The path to relief is to change course and not allow the IRGC-QF to profit from illicit oil sales.”

In general, U.S. persons are now prohibited from conducting business with either the Adrian Darya 1 or with Capt. Kumar. American entities are also required to implement a freeze on any property or assets associated with the vessel or her master.

On Friday, the Adrian Darya turned through 180 degrees again to head back between Turkey and the northern shore of Cyprus. It is the third time she has transited this route this week - first eastbound, then westbound, then eastbound once more - as she seeks a way to offload her controversial cargo.

The Darya's crew have repeatedly changed the destination listed on their AIS broadcast - first to Kalamata, Greece, then for orders, then Mersin, Turkey, and now Iskenderun, Turkey. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu added to the mystery when he told reporters Friday that the VLCC is actually headed for waters off the coast of Lebanon, not Turkey. He said that the Turkish government is monitoring the vessel's movements "very closely." Lebanese finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil told Reuters that his government has not heard anything about the Iranian VLCC visiting Lebanon. 

If the Darya headed to Lebanon on her current route, she would pass by the Baniyas refinery in Syria, her suspected original destination. The facility is blacklisted under EU sanctions on the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and the United States has threatened a visa ban for anyone who assists the Darya in delivering oil to Syria.

In a social media post Friday, U.S. Secretary of State said that the U.S. believes that the Darya is still bound for Syria. The government of Gibraltar released the vessel earlier this month after Iranian negotiators allegedly promised to send the oil elsewhere; Iran has denied making such assurances. "We have reliable information that the tanker is underway and headed to Tartus, Syria. I hope it changes course. It was a big mistake to trust [Iranian foreign minister Javad] Zarif," Pompeo said.