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    US finds ghost tankers in Venezuela and Iran

    In the market for services that help companies escape from US sanctions, electronic warfare tools have appeared that change the positioning of ships in the identification system.

    It is increasingly difficult for the United States of America to control the implementation of the sanctions it has imposed against Russia and other states whose political course is at odds with their own. Serious problems arose with respect to the embargo on oil supplies from Iran and Venezuela.

    The Associated Press published an article the day before, which indicates the impossibility of controlling ghost tankers entering the ports of these countries. We are talking about technologies for concealing and substituting the location of a particular civilian ship using electronic warfare, previously available only to the military.

    No more total control

    Windward, a maritime intelligence company that provides data to the US government, said that over the past two years it has recorded more than 350 cases when commercial vessels with a displacement of more than 300 tons, using electronic warfare technology, allegedly replaced their real GPS location and, accordingly, were incorrectly positioned in Automatic identification system, the use of which is mandatory under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea.

    It is noted that about 200 trading “flying Dutchmen” are under suspicion. At the same time, Windward cannot unequivocally state where these ships were and what they were doing at that time, but still indicates that they called at the ports of countries under sanctions and took on board forbidden oil or other products. As they say, “highly likely”.

    “I have never heard of such a case before. Neither with Russian courts nor, moreover, with foreign ones. If this really happened, then the captain and the shipowner would immediately be punished, ”Kamil Bekyashev, professor, vice-president of the Russian Association of Maritime Law, told Expert.

    As an example, the AP article cites the story of the Tulip oil tanker, sailing under the Panamanian flag, but owned by the Hong Kong-registered company Victory Marine Ltd, which allegedly exported oil from Venezuela for another Hong Kong enterprise, which, however, was called a front. At the same time, the tanker, according to the identification system, was at that time off the coast of West Africa.

    In addition to the lack of total control over the course and location, there are no other claims to the reputation of most of the 200 unnamed ships in terms of their compliance with maritime law. “Otherwise, they are well-behaved,” Windward states, explaining this by careful selection of ships by shipowners. However, the trend is in any case obvious – there is no longer total control at sea over compliance with the sanctions regime, which the inspectors themselves admit.

    “If you go to the bank in a ski mask, everyone understands what you have in mind. But here they seem to work inside together with the cashier. No one can see them, ”one of the Windward managers figuratively protested. By the way, another “dead zone” from the point of view of “the all-seeing sea eye of Washington” is Chinese ports, thanks to the data privacy law in force in the Celestial Empire.

    Sanctions breed sanctions

    With all this, it’s even a little strange that in the context of the current information campaign on Russia’s “imminent” attack on Ukraine, among the ports that ghost ships call, for example, the harbors of Crimea are not yet mentioned. It is also surprising that the names of Russian oil companies did not appear on the list of accused. Also in the near future, one can expect accusations against Russian defense enterprises of undermining the safety of navigation in the world’s oceans by selling electronic warfare equipment to shipowners that violate sanctions, capable of hiding the location of huge tankers.

    “Naturally, Russia has such technologies. Moreover, even more, advanced than those described in the AR article. For example, it says that ships fell under suspicion because of too sharp turns at high speed by sea standards or drifting in a perfect circle. Or because they were virtually outside the coverage area of ​​the satellite transmitting their coordinates. All this is surmountable. It is possible to create a virtual illusion of the ship’s movement on a completely realistic course without writing out suspiciously ideal geometric shapes. And what is described in the article is in the arsenal of a very certain limited number of countries. And anyone could launch such equipment through intermediaries on the “black market” into civilian circulation in 2020, but not Russia. It is unlikely that our country would put an electronic warfare system on a Panamanian tanker. Yes, and with oil, we are all right without that, ”a source in one of the Russian enterprises engaged in the production of radio-electronic equipment told Expert.

    Igor Korotchenko, director of the Center for Analysis of the World Arms Trade, editor-in-chief of the National Defense magazine, commenting for Expert on the information about the use of radio-electronic means to cover the “gray” merchant fleet flights, noted that it “is politically biased and is used in the context of combating those regimes that the United States has declared hostile.”

    If, according to the well-known formula, money should make money, then in the logic of containing Russia and other opponents of the West, sanctions should give rise to new sanctions. And another reason for making public information about ghost merchant ships with electronic warfare equipment on board right now could be the recently voiced desire of the US presidential administration to achieve a revision of the Montreux Convention and new rules for passage through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, as well as ship navigation in the Black Sea.

    Meanwhile, through the intricacies of history with a change in the geopositioning of ships, a very curious trend peeps through. A real market of services is emerging and seems to be rapidly developing in the world, helping to circumvent the sanctions pressure of Uncle Sam and his satellites. Companies are provided with lobbying, legal and technological support. Judging by the extent to which high technologies are available within the framework of the anti-sanction marketplace, US restrictive measures are no longer perceived by businesses as a miracle weapon capable of tearing apart the economies of opposing states.

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