The US government has sanctioned the owner and operator of a VLCC within days of the tanker delivering a $100m oil cargo to China.

Iran’s Ministry of Defence organised a shipment in late January on the Panama-flagged 318,700-dwt Kohana (built 2003), according to the US sanctions enforcement body, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (Ofac).

On Tuesday, the ship was off the southern coast of China heading for the eastern port of Qingdao carrying nearly 2m barrels of oil, according to Kpler ship tracking data.

It was due to discharge its cargo there on 2 March, the data suggested.

The US sanctioned the Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) in 2019. It said the latest action was intended to disrupt efforts to fund overseas terrorist groups.

“The US Treasury Department stands ready to disrupt any efforts by MODAFL to generate revenue to support these activities,” US Treasury official Brian Nelson said.

The tanker is owned by Hong Kong-registered Kohana Company Limited and operated by Iridescent Co Ltd, which the US says is registered in the Marshall Islands.

Iridescent has been contacted for comment.

The ship’s flag state, Panama, was told about the suspected involvement of the ship in the Iranian oil trade in May 2023 by the campaign group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), which tracks the Iranian tanker trade.

A ship-to-ship transfer involving the Kohana (ex-Irises) according to UANI. Photo: UANI

In a letter to flag administrators, UANI said the ship, then named Irises and owned and operated by Iridescent, was involved the previous month in a ship-to-ship transfer of Iranian oil with another VLCC, the Suriname-owned 300-000-dwt Vigor (built 2004).

The Vigor in return received the oil from an Iranian tanker, UANI said.

The group claimed the tanker was also linked to the transport of Venezuelan crude, a trade that had been blacklisted by the US.

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