09:43 GMT26 February 2021
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    Iranian oil exports slumped after former President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of a nuclear deal with Tehran in 2018 and started tightening economic sanctions on Iran.

    Indonesia has seized the Iranian-flagged MT Horse and Panamanian-flagged MT Freya oil tankers over alleged oil transfers in the country's waters, Reuters reported, citing Indonesia's authorities.

    "The tankers, first detected at 5:30 a.m. local time (2130 GMT on Jan. 23) concealed their identity by not showing their national flags, turning off automatic identification systems and did not respond to a radio call," Coast guard spokesman Wisnu Pramandita said in a statement on Sunday.

    The tankers were seized after failing to respond to radio calls and then transferred to Batam island in Riau Island Province for further investigation.

    According to the Indonesian Maritime Security Agency, the crew is suspected of a number of violations, including failing to display the vessels' national flags, turning off identification systems to avoid detection and illegally transferring oil.

    Wisnu Pramandita said that vessels were caught "red-handed" as the Iranian tanker was transferring oil to the Panamian one. The two vessels are capable of carrying 2 million barrels of crude.

    The International Maritime Organisation requires vessels to use transponders for safety and transparency. The vessels can turn transponders off to avoid being detected by pirates. Some crews, however, do it to hide illegal activities.

    Iran has been previously accused of concealing its oil exports to avoid US sanctions.

    Former US President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the JCPOA nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Iran. The country's oil exports slumped following Washington's move. The Islamic Republic hopes that Joe Biden will ease restrictions if the US rejoins the pact.

    Tags:
    tanker, oil, Panama, Iran, Indonesia
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