01 Aug 2019
Oil tanker owners are finding a way to reduce the risks of navigating the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important — and lately most dangerous — energy chokepoint: vanish from global tracking systems.
Copying from Iran’s own playbook, at least 20 ships turned off their transponders while passing through the strait this month, tanker-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg show. Others appear to have slightly altered their routes once inside the Persian Gulf, sailing closer than usual to Saudi Arabia’s coast en route to ports in Kuwait or Iraq.
Before the latest increase in tensions with Iran, ships were more consistent about signaling their positions as they passed through a waterway that handles a third of seaborne petroleum. Once inside the Gulf, shipping routes took them fairly close to the Iranian coast, skirting the offshore South Pars/North gas field shared by Iran and Qatar. Most still do, but a growing number appear to be trying something new.
It’s little surprise that ships are doing everything possible to minimize risk. The Gulf region has witnessed a spate of vessel attacks, tanker seizures and drone shoot-downs since May, all against the backdrop of U.S. sanctions aimed at crippling Iran. War-risk insurance soared for tanker owners seeking to load cargoes in the region.
By Brian Wingfield and Julian Lee, Bloomberg, 31 July 2019
Read more at Bloomberg
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