The Ghost Armada

January 2, 2024


Claire Jungman and Daniel Roth


United Against Nuclear Iran

In November 2020, UANI identified 70 foreign vessels suspected of involvement in the illicit transfer of Iranian crude oil and/or petroleum products. Over two years later, the list has grown to 383. This suspected ghost armada, distinct from but complementing Iran’s own NITC tanker fleet, has skirted U.S. sanctions and exploited regulatory loopholes to ship millions of barrels of Iranian oil.

One of the most frequently deployed tactics in evading oil sanctions is “flag hopping.” This involves the repeated switching of a ship’s “flag” – which permits legitimate global travel and docking rights – to different national registries. Often accompanied by the formation of new shell and front companies, ownership and name changes, and even alterations to ships’ physical markings, flag-hopping is a blight on legitimate maritime commerce.

Certain vessel owners are intentionally exploiting flag registries, many of which do not have the capabilities to track the history of vessels or even perform what ought to be rudimentary compliance scans.  In fact, some registries are increasingly reliant on UANI for assistance in identifying the suspicious and often illicit behavior of vessels absent their own tracking capabilities and resources.


Read the full article on the United Against Nuclear Iran website.