Fake Tankers

Published ∼ Updated 4 months ago

Believe it or not, there’s a fair bunch of supertankers that just aren’t where they claim to be, even with the AIS transponder enabled. We won’t point out all of them, but we have one very solid case we can present.

The DIAMOND II is an Iranian VLCC supertanker which can carry 2 million barrels of crude oil. She’s been offline for the entire duration of 2019 up until mid-December, when we spotted her back on MarineTraffic’s AIS map. Sure enough, other AIS maps showed her in the Red Sea as well, heading towards the Gulf of Aden. At first, we thought it was extremely odd that a vessel heading down the Red Sea could have traversed the Suez Canal with AIS deactivated as AIS is mandatory within 15 nautical miles of the canal.

As it turns out, this supertanker just isn’t where it claims to be. Instead, its AIS transponder is actually being carried around by a tug boat with very little to do. The tug boat crew switch off and on DIAMOND II’s AIS transponder wherever they please in order to make it look like she’s moving oil around. We know for a fact that the DIAMOND II isn’t there because all of the satellite images we’ve reviewed only show the IRON MAN tug boat without the DIAMOND II.

IRON MAN is currently along India’s west coast, off a port called Alang. However, what’s really interesting is that as of September 2019, the vessel switched owners (originally Danish) to a India/Hong Kong-based company called Star Matrix. Since then, the vessel has sailed around Europe’s Atlantic coastline and into the waters off Gibraltar by early October. Now, what’s peculiar is that between October 4th and 7th, this tug boat was zigzagging around in the international waters. We are not entirely sure what happened as we didn’t have imagery available each day of that week to help explain. However, the vessel docked at the Spanish port of Algeciras on October 14th for the day and then departed for the Suez Canal. Following the canal, the tug boat then continued towards the south end of the Red Sea. Now, what’s REALLY interesting is that on December 14th, 2019 at 01:04 UTC, the IRON MAN stopped transponding over AIS while the DIAMOND II began transponding just 5 hours south of that spot!

You can see on the MarineTraffic AIS map that the DIAMOND II resumes on the trajectory of IRON MAN. Please bear in mind now that the DIAMOND II just does not exist here, and that the IRON MAN is now carrying her AIS transponder aboard. From there, the IRON MAN sailed into the port of Duqm in Oman. It was here that we made this discovery where we could clearly see a satellite photo showing only the IRON MAN but not the DIAMOND II during her week-long stay in Oman. AIS on the other hand, was showing that the DIAMOND II was there, but not the IRON MAN tug boat.

When we overlay both vessels on the same map, we can see that the “DIAMOND II” sailed from Oman to India on January 4th, 2020 and arrived in India on January 12th. Of course, it was simply the IRON MAN just shuttling back and forth between India, Oman and the UAE for the next two months till this day. So go ahead and track the IRON MAN if you want to know where the DIAMOND II’s AIS transponder is.

As for the true whereabouts of the DIAMOND II, we are still working on that. She’s been out of sight for more than a year now, but we did receive an anonymous tip that she was spotted in the west Mediterranean Sea on October 7th, which is the exact same time and place as the IRON MAN. This would therefore imply that the DIAMOND II sailed all the way around Africa just as the GRACE 1 (later known as ADRIAN DARYA-1) did almost a year ago. What she did thereafter is remains a mystery.

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