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Westlake Legal Group > Ships and Shipping

Pushed by Security Concerns and Trump, Germany Weighs a New Fuel

Westlake Legal Group 08sp-lng-inyt-4-facebookJumbo Pushed by Security Concerns and Trump, Germany Weighs a New Fuel Wilhelmshaven (Germany) Uniper SE Ships and Shipping Pipelines natural gas Germany

WILHELMSHAVEN, Germany — A jetty here juts out nearly a mile into the Wadden Sea from Germany’s low-lying northern coast. Now used by a chemical plant, the pier could become the site of the country’s first liquefied natural gas terminal.

Wilhelmshaven, a port city of about 80,000 people founded as a naval base, is celebrating its 150th anniversary. Now it is among a handful of candidates for a project, supported by the German government, that would open Europe’s largest economy to liquefied natural gas, known as L.N.G.

The fuel, which is created by chilling natural gas to a liquid form, is increasingly traded globally like oil. It is loaded onto enormous specialized ships, some more than 1,000 feet long. These vessels can go anywhere there is a terminal and deliver a substantial transfusion of fuel into a country’s gas network to keep the lights on and factories humming.

For Germany, Europe’s largest consumer of natural gas, an L.N.G. terminal would provide an alternative to its dependence on fuel piped from Russia, its largest supplier, and give the country a way to receive supplies from Qatar or the United States or elsewhere if an alternative were needed.

Uniper, a German energy provider, and other companies have considered building an L.N.G. facility in Wilhelmshaven for decades, holding on to the site since the 1970s. Earlier plans, including an effort to import the fuel from Algeria, have failed to come to fruition. Now, executives at Uniper say, the right moment may have arrived.

“The timing in the market is a very good one to develop such a facility,” Niels Fenzl, the company’s vice president for transportation and terminals, said in an interview.

Uniper recently held an “open season” to gauge the interest of potential suppliers, with encouraging results. Exxon Mobil, the American energy giant, has already reached a preliminary deal to use the terminal.

Germany has long relied on natural gas from Russia, Norway and other countries. Pipeline gas tends to be cheaper than L.N.G., which has higher processing and transportation costs.

In 2018, more than half of Germany’s gas imports came from Russia, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy. But although the German establishment appears to be comfortable with Russia and its main gas provider, Gazprom, there are increasing reasons for the country to explore L.N.G. as an alternative.

In 2009, a price dispute led to a nearly two-week disruption in Russian gas shipments through Ukraine, raising concerns about European reliance on Russian supplies. And the Netherlands, another large supplier to Germany, faces the prospect of declining output from the Groningen field, not far from the German border. Its production is expected to decline and eventually cease because of earthquakes triggered by gas production. An L.N.G. facility could help compensate for those losses.

President Trump has also leaned on Europe, including Germany, to import more natural gas from shale deposits in the United States, which have produced a bounty of fuel that is now flowing into exports in the form of L.N.G. The administration has criticized a new pipeline, Nord Stream 2, being built from Russia to Germany, while promoting fuel from new export facilities in Louisiana and Texas.

Earlier this year, Peter Altmaier, the German economics and energy minister, announced support for constructing an L.N.G. terminal in return for the United States toning down its opposition to the new pipeline with Russia.

For years, German politicians and industry leaders have shrugged off warnings about relying on Russia. Northwest Europe has other terminals, which until recently were little used. L.N.G. supplies instead went to destinations like Asia, where buyers were willing to pay higher prices.

Now the energy security arguments appear to be making headway, and the market for L.N.G. looks stronger. Utilization rates of terminals in northwest Europe have risen sharply. Uniper, which has an agreement to take L.N.G. from a facility in Freeport, Tex.., said that the shiploads of fuel traded by the company more than tripled from 2017 to 2018, from 40 to 135.

At a visitor’s center for the Wilhelmshaven port, Mr. Fenzl said that to keep costs down, the company is leaning toward using a floating vessel, rather than an onshore facility, as its terminal. The vessel, which would be provided by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, would be tied to an extension of the existing jetty. L.N.G. vessels would tie up alongside and discharge their frigid cargo through flexible hoses.

Mr. Fenzl said the company has not made a final decision to move ahead and was weighing commitments from other suppliers to use the facility, as well as potential government support. He estimated the cost of the project at 500 to 650 million euros. “For us, as Uniper, this is a lot of money,” he said. “It is not an easy task to get if off the ground.”

Building an L.N.G. terminal would not guarantee that Germany would import fuel from the United States. “The German stance is that they are going to take the most competitive L.N.G. supply that they can. If that happens to be the U.S., that is a bonus,” said Murray Douglas, an analyst at Wood Mackenzie, a market research firm.

Mr. Douglas said the United States would need to compete with Qatar, a major exporter, as well as planned projects in East Africa. Russia is also increasingly competing in the L.N.G. market.

Other German ports, including Stade, have also joined the competition for a terminal. In Brunsbuettel, the state-owned Dutch gas distributor and partners are considering a terminal in part to make up for lost supplies from the quake-rattled Groningen field. All three of these cities are near Hamburg, the thriving commercial and maritime hub in northern Germany.

Of course, local and environmental opposition to liquefied natural gas could grow, as it has in other ports. The Wadden Sea is considered a unique area of mud flats and shallows, and environmentalists say that putting a terminal there might cause pollution, while the big ships could damage the sea bottom.

In addition, some activists question whether Germany, which has halted the drilling process known as fracking, in which water is injected into gas wells to break up rock and increase their production, should be building a terminal to import gas from the United States produced by this process.

“It is extremely hypocritical that Germany forbids the use of this technology but allows the import of the same type of gas,” said Antoine Simon, a campaigner against fossil fuels at Friends of the Earth Europe in Brussels.

Andy Gheorghiu, a campaigner in Germany for Food and Water Watch, a group that opposes fracking, said opposition to the L.N.G. terminals had been relatively small but was growing. “I am pretty confident we can kill these projects,” he said.In Wilhelmshaven, some civic leaders see an L.N.G. terminal as a boost to the city’s efforts to build up local port activities. “Now it looks like we come to the end of a long, long story,” joked John H. Niemann, president of the Wilhelmshaven Port Association, noting that various versions of the project had been under discussion for 40 years.

The town was heavily damaged by bombing in World War II and revived, first as an oil terminal and, more recently, as a container port. Port traffic dropped sharply during the financial crisis beginning in 2008 but is gradually regaining momentum and attracting new businesses, Mr. Niemann said.

Mr. Fenzl said that part of the appeal of Wilhelmshaven, which has greater than 10 percent unemployment — twice the national average — is that the area is hungry for jobs and new businesses.

Tourism is also important to the region. People come to see the coastline and a nearby nature reserve, as well as attractions including a maritime history museum and an aquarium. On warm evenings, diners sit outside restaurants along a romantically lit canal. There is even a hulking vintage air raid bunker with a restaurant next door.

Tourists, Mr. Fenzl said, also like to watch the huge container vessels going in and out of the port. The L.N.G. carriers, some of the largest ships in the world, might also prove an attraction, he said. “I think they are quite a sight.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Seized Iranian Tanker Leaves Gibraltar Despite U.S. Pressure

Westlake Legal Group merlin_159430113_b2fffdfd-c1b5-41c5-afb3-33c0a8284e22-facebookJumbo Seized Iranian Tanker Leaves Gibraltar Despite U.S. Pressure United States International Relations United States Ships and Shipping Iran Great Britain Gibraltar Embargoes and Sanctions

An Iranian oil tanker held for six weeks after being impounded left Gibraltar on Sunday, days after the authorities there rejected a request from American officials to turn the vessel over to them.

A marine traffic monitoring site showed the tanker, the Grace 1, leaving Gibraltar’s waters. Iranian and Gibraltar news organizations confirmed that it had departed.

The Grace 1 was seized on July 4 by British marines and Gibraltar port officials who asserted that the tanker was carrying oil to Syria in violation of a European Union embargo. Iran soon detained a British-flagged tanker, the Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow entryway to the Persian Gulf that is a conduit for about 20 percent of the world’s crude oil.

The decision to release the Iranian ship was seen as a sign of easing of tensions between Gibraltar, a semiautonomous British territory, London and Tehran. A confrontation between Iran and the West, particularly with the United States, has escalated in recent weeks.

The ship’s departure also raised expectations that Iran, in turn, would relinquish the Stena Impero.

Gibraltar ordered the release of the Grace 1 on Thursday despite a last-minute request from the United States that it be allowed to seize the ship. The following day, the Justice Department unsealed a warrant issued by a federal court in Washington to seize the tanker, the oil it contains and nearly $1 million based on statutory violations.

“A network of front companies allegedly laundered millions of dollars in support of such shipments,” Jessie Liu, the United States attorney for the District of Columbia, said in a news release.

The Justice Department said that multiple parties affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps of Iran, which the United States has designated a foreign terrorist organization, were believed involved.

On Friday, Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo, said that because of the American intervention, the case would go back to court.

But on Sunday, the Gibraltar government rejected the American request. It said that the warrant had relied on broad United States sanctions against Iran that were not applicable in the European Union.

Iran’s naval commander said Sunday that his country was ready to dispatch its naval fleet to escort the oil tanker, renamed Adrian Darya-1.

“The era of hit and run is over,” Rear Adm. Hossein Khanzadi was quoted as saying by Iran’s Mehr news agency. “If top authorities ask the navy, we are ready to escort our tanker Adrian.”

In announcing the decision Thursday to release the vessel, the government of Gibraltar said that it had information that the Grace 1 was headed to Syria when it was initially detained, but that it now had assurances the tanker would not go there. Three crew members who had been detained were also released.

Some speculated that the release could be part of a ship swap, but none of the involved parties confirmed that. The Iranian authorities said on Friday that they had made no promises.

“Iran has made no commitment for the release of the Grace 1 tanker,” said Abbas Mousavi, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, according to a report from the semiofficial Tasnim news agency.

Mr. Mousavi also said, “We announced from the early hours of the oil tanker’s detention that Syria was not the oil tanker’s destination and remained so to the end.” Even if the oil had been headed to Syria, he said, “it would still have nothing to do with anyone.”

The Gibraltar government disputed Iran’s claims, saying Iran had indeed made commitments to not transport the oil to Syria.

“The evidence is clear, and the facts speak louder than the self-serving political statements we are hearing today,” the government said.

It was unclear whether the United States intended to seize the vessel now that it has left Gibraltar. But any attempt to intercept the tanker in international waters would most likely be considered illegal.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which provides a framework for engagement at sea, maintains that military ships do not have the authority to detain or board foreign-flagged vessels in international waters unless the ship is suspected of serious offenses like piracy or participating in the slave trade.

The United States has announced additional punitive measures for the crew members of any vessel that transports oil from Iran to Syria.

The State Department said Thursday it would revoke United States visas for the crew members operating Grace 1. The State Department said that it had found that the vessel was helping the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps by transporting Iranian oil.

“This could result in serious consequences for any individuals associated with the Grace I,” the State Department said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo posted the statement on Twitter with a warning: “A message to all mariners — if you crew an IRGC or other FTO-affiliated ship, you jeopardize future entry to the U.S.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Seized Iranian Tanker Leaves Gibraltar, Despite U.S. Demand

Westlake Legal Group 16iran-tanker-facebookJumbo Seized Iranian Tanker Leaves Gibraltar, Despite U.S. Demand United States International Relations United States Ships and Shipping Iran Great Britain Gibraltar Embargoes and Sanctions

An Iranian oil tanker held for six weeks after being impounded left Gibraltar on Sunday, days after the authorities there rejected a request from American officials that it turn the vessel over to them.

A marine traffic monitoring site showed the tanker, the Grace 1, leaving Gibraltar’s waters. Iranian and Gibraltar news organizations confirmed that it had set sail.

The ship’s departure raised hopes that Iran, in turn, would relinquish a British tanker it seized in what appeared to be retaliation.

On Thursday, Gibraltar ordered the release of the Grace 1 despite a last-minute request from the United States hours earlier that it be allowed to seize the ship.

The following day, the Justice Department unsealed a warrant issued by a federal court in Washington to seize the tanker, the oil it contains and nearly $1 million based on statutory violations.

“A network of front companies allegedly laundered millions of dollars in support of such shipments,” Jessie Liu, the United States attorney for the District of Columbia, said in a news release.

The Justice Department said that “multiple parties affiliated with” the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran, which the United States has designated a foreign terrorist organization, were thought to be involved.

On Friday, Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo, said that, because of the American intervention, the case “could go back to the court, absolutely.”

But on Sunday, the government of Gibraltar rejected the American request. It said in a statement that the warrant relied on broad United States sanctions against Iran that were not applicable in the European Union.

Iran’s naval commander said Sunday that his country was ready to dispatch its naval fleet to escort the oil tanker, renamed Adrian Darya-1.

“The era of hit and run is over,” Rear Adm. Hossein Khanzadi was quoted as saying by the Mehr news agency. “If top authorities ask the navy, we are ready to escort our tanker Adrian.”

The decision to release the ship was seen as a sign of easing of tensions between officials in Gibraltar, a semiautonomous British territory, Tehran and London. A confrontation between Iran and the West has escalated in recent weeks, particularly with the United States.

The Grace 1 was seized on July 4 by British marines and Gibraltar port officials, who asserted that the tanker was carrying oil to Syria in violation of a European Union embargo.

Iran soon detained a British-flagged tanker, the Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow entryway to the Persian Gulf that is a conduit for around 20 percent of the world’s crude oil.

In announcing the decision Thursday to release the vessel, the government of Gibraltar said that it had information that the Grace 1 was headed to Syria when it was initially detained, but that it now had assurances the tanker would not go to there. Three crew members who had been detained were also released.

Some speculated that the release could be part of a ship swap, but none of the involved parties confirmed that information. But the Iranian authorities said on Friday that they had made no promises.

“Iran has made no commitment for the release of the Grace 1 tanker,” said Abbas Mousavi, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, according to a report from the semiofficial Tasnim news agency.

Mr. Mousavi also said, “We announced from the early hours of the oil tanker’s detention that Syria was not the oil tanker’s destination and remained so to the end.” Even if the oil had been headed to Syria, he said, “it would still have nothing to do with anyone.”

The Gibraltar government rejected the claims, saying Iran had indeed made commitments to not transport the oil to Syria. “The evidence is clear, and the facts speak louder than the self-serving political statements we are hearing today,” the government said in a statement.

It was unclear if the United States intended to seize the vessel if it left Gibraltar.

But any attempt to intercept the tanker in international waters would most likely be in violation of international rules.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which provides a framework for engagement at sea, maintains that military ships do not have the authority to detain or board foreign-flagged vessels in international waters unless the ship is suspected of serious offenses like piracy or participating in the slave trade.

The United States has announced additional punitive measures for the crew members of any vessel that transports oil from Iran to Syria.

In a statement released late Thursday, the State Department said it would revoke United States visas for the crew members operating Grace 1. The State Department said that it had found that the vessel was helping the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps by transporting Iranian oil.

“This could result in serious consequences for any individuals associated with the Grace I,” the statement said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo posted the statement on Twitter with a warning: “A message to all mariners — if you crew an IRGC or other FTO-affiliated ship, you jeopardize future entry to the U.S.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

To Evade Sanctions on Iran, Ships Vanish in Plain Sight

A week ago, a small tanker ship approached the Persian Gulf after a 19-day voyage from China. The captain, as required by international rules, reported the ship’s position, course, speed and another key detail: It was riding high in the water, meaning it was probably empty.

Then the Chinese-owned ship, the Sino Energy 1, went silent and essentially vanished from the grid.

It reported in again on Sunday, near the spot where it had vanished six days earlier, only now it was heading east, away from the Strait of Hormuz near Iran. If past patterns hold, the captain will soon report that it is riding low in the water, meaning its tanks are likely full.

As the Trump administration’s sanctions on Iranian oil and petrochemical products have taken hold, some of the world’s shipping fleets have defied the restrictions by “going dark” when they pick up cargo in Iranian ports, according to commercial analysts who track shipping data and intelligence from authorities in Israel, a country that backs the Trump crackdown.

[Iran breached a nuclear fuel limit in what it said was a response to the reimposition of sanctions by the Trump administration.]

“They are hiding their activity,” said Samir Madani, co-founder of TankerTrackers.com, a company that uses satellite imagery to identify tankers calling on Iranian ports. “They don’t want to broadcast the fact that they have been in Iran, evading sanctions. It’s that simple.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group 02ghostships-articleLarge To Evade Sanctions on Iran, Ships Vanish in Plain Sight United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Sinochem Ships and Shipping Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Hook, Brian H Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions Defense and Military Forces China

Smaller ships like the Sino Energy 1 are harder to track than big oil tankers when they go off the grid.CreditMartin Klingsick

A maritime treaty overseen by a United Nations agency requires ships of 300 tons or more that travel international routes to have an automatic identification system. The gear helps avoid collisions and aids in search-and-rescue operations. It also allows countries to monitor shipping traffic.

It is not illegal under international law to buy and haul Iranian oil or related products. The Trump administration’s sanctions, which went into effect last November after the United States pulled out of the Iran nuclear agreement, are unilateral.

But foreign companies doing business with American companies or banks risk being punished by the United States. Actions can include banning American banks from working with them, freezing assets and barring company officials from traveling to the United States, said Richard Nephew, a research scholar at Columbia University who oversaw Iran policy on the National Security Council during the Obama administration.

“We have sanctioned dozens of Chinese state-owned enterprises for nuclear, missile, arms and other forms of proliferation,” Mr. Nephew said. “But it is not entered into lightly.”

A State Department spokeswoman said, “We do not comment on intelligence matters.”

Chinese Tankers Keep Disappearing in the Persian Gulf

Westlake Legal Group 1 To Evade Sanctions on Iran, Ships Vanish in Plain Sight United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Sinochem Ships and Shipping Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Hook, Brian H Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions Defense and Military Forces China

The SC Mercury, an oil and chemical tanker owned by Sinochem until April 2019, sails regularly from Chinese ports into the Persian Gulf.

Westlake Legal Group 2 To Evade Sanctions on Iran, Ships Vanish in Plain Sight United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Sinochem Ships and Shipping Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Hook, Brian H Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions Defense and Military Forces China

On the morning of Jan. 27, 2018, it disappeared. The Mercury’s A.I.S. transponder — a device that broadcasts a ship’s location continuously, required by an international maritime treaty — fell silent.

Several days later, the transponder came back to life, tracking the Mercury as it sailed toward ports in India. Having deposited its cargo, it turned back toward the gulf.

On Feb. 15, 2018, the ship went dark again as it navigated the Strait of Hormuz, reappearing days later to begin a weekslong journey back to Shanghai.

All ships 300 tons or greater on international journeys are required to broadcast their location, course and speed on the system, but sometimes, to hide their activities from competitors, ships “go dark,” analysts say.

Westlake Legal Group 3 To Evade Sanctions on Iran, Ships Vanish in Plain Sight United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Sinochem Ships and Shipping Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Hook, Brian H Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions Defense and Military Forces China

The Persian Gulf isn’t the only place in the world where ships go silent. It also happens in the South China Sea, but there, one analyst said, the reason may be because the sheer number of ships overwhelms the system.

Westlake Legal Group 4 To Evade Sanctions on Iran, Ships Vanish in Plain Sight United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Sinochem Ships and Shipping Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Hook, Brian H Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions Defense and Military Forces China

In the case of the Mercury, outages appeared to be more selective. In April and May 2018, the ship’s transponder stayed active as it visited ports in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

When a ship goes dark in the Persian Gulf, it may be related to dodging sanctions, not technical problems, said Samir Madani of TankerTrackers.com, which uses satellite technology to monitor ships. Countries and companies that import Iranian oil risk punishment from the United States.

Westlake Legal Group 5 To Evade Sanctions on Iran, Ships Vanish in Plain Sight United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Sinochem Ships and Shipping Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Nuclear Weapons Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Hook, Brian H Gulf of Oman Incident (June 2019) Embargoes and Sanctions Defense and Military Forces China

In the past 18 months, the five ships, which regularly sail between China and the Persian Gulf, made only two port visits in Iran, according to information from their A.I.S. data. In contrast, those ships made close to 50 stops in ports in Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. In another 28 instances, the ships vanished in the region for days or weeks.

By Rich Harris and Derek Watkins. Source: VesselsValue

debug 1128: waiting for message…….

Brian Hook, the United States special representative for Iran, told reporters in London on Friday that the United States would punish any country importing Iranian oil. Mr. Hook was responding to a question about reports of Iranian oil going to Asia, according to the Reuters news agency.

President Trump’s efforts to halt Iranian oil and petrochemical exports are at the heart of rising tensions between the two countries. Last month, he imposed new sanctions on Iran’s leaders after it downed an American surveillance drone and nearly precipitated a counterstrike that was called off at the last minute. The attack on the drone came a week after the United States accused Iran of being responsible for explosions that had crippled two tankers near the Strait of Hormuz.

American and Israeli intelligence agencies say the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is deeply entwined with its petrochemical industry, using oil revenues to swell its coffers. Mr. Trump has labeled the military group a terrorist organization.

Iran has been trying to work around the American sanctions by offering “significant reductions” in price for its oil and petrochemical products, said Gary Samore, a professor at Brandeis University who worked on weapons issues in the Obama administration.

Brian Hook, left, the United States special representative for Iran, has said the American government would punish any country importing Iranian oil.CreditYasser Al-Zayyat/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

When shipping companies defy the sanctions, they weaken their effectiveness, especially if the companies — or the countries where they are based — see no consequences, analysts said. Some shipping companies with direct Iranian ties do not try to hide their movements, according to data collected by the commercial tracking sites.

Last month, the Salina, an Iranian-flagged oil tanker under American sanctions, docked in Jinzhou Bay, a port in northeastern China, according to data from VesselsValue, a website that analyzes global shipping information. The Salina regularly reported its position, course and speed via the automatic identification system.

Oil tankers like the Salina, which can transport as much as a million barrels of crude, or about 5 percent of the daily consumption of the United States, are so big that they can call on only a limited number of ports. They are also more easily spotted by satellites than smaller ships like the Sino Energy 1.

That vessel, and its more than 40 sister ships, are far more difficult to track when they go off the grid. They were owned until April by a subsidiary of Sinochem, a state-owned company in China that is one of the world’s biggest chemical manufacturers.

Sinochem has extensive business ties in the United States. It has an office in Houston and works with big American companies including Boeing and Exxon Mobil. In March, it signed an agreement with Citibank to “deepen the partnership” between the two companies, Sinochem said. In 2013, a United States subsidiary of Sinochem bought a 40 percent stake in a Texas shale deposit for $1.7 billion.

In April, it sold a controlling share in its shipping fleet to a private company, Inner Mongolia Junzheng Energy & Chemical Group Co., whose biggest shareholder is Du Jiangtao, a Chinese billionaire who made his fortune in medical equipment, chemicals and coal-generated power.

A person answering the phone at Junzheng’s investor relations office was not familiar with the newly acquired shipping business. For now, Junzheng owns 40 percent of Sinochem’s former shipping fleet, with the rest owned by two Beijing companies.

Frank Ning, the chairman of Sinochem, speaking in a brief interview in Dalian, China, said that shipping had not been central to the company’s business. In a statement, the company said it had “adopted strict compliance policies and governance on export control and sanctions,” though a former employee who had helped manage the shipping business, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the company had shipped petrochemicals from Iran for years.

The tracking data also show that some of the Sinochem ships made trips to Iran before the fleet was sold, and both before and after the American sanctions went into effect.

In April 2018, for example, one of the ships, the SC Brilliant, was moored at Asalouyeh, a major Iranian petrochemical depot on the Persian Gulf, according to data from VesselsValue. The SC Brilliant’s voyage was easy to plot. Its captain made constant reports via the automatic identification system, broadcasting its course, speed and destination.

But after Mr. Trump’s announcement last August that he would reimpose sanctions on Iran’s petroleum industry, the SC Brilliant’s voyages became less transparent.

In late September and early October, shortly before the sanctions took effect, the ship went off the grid for 10 days in the same stretch of the Strait of Hormuz where the Sino Energy 1 disappeared last week. When the SC Brilliant went off the grid, it appeared empty; when it re-emerged, it appeared full.

The pattern was repeated in February, with the ship disappearing for four days, according to the tracking data.

That month, another Sinochem ship, the SC Neptune, stopped transmitting its position when it approached the Strait of Hormuz, the tracking data show. Four days later, for a brief period, it appeared back on the grid, transmitting its location from an export terminal on Iran’s Kharg Island. It then went quiet for another 24 hours, reappearing on its way out of the strait.

Iran’s Kharg Island (pictured in a screenshot from Google Maps), where a Chinese ship called SC Neptune briefly reported its position in February after going off the grid.

In some parts of the world, including the South China Sea, it is not uncommon for ships to go silent because the automatic identification system may be overloaded by the volume of vessels, said Court Smith, a former officer in the United States Coast Guard who is now an analyst at VesselsValue. Sometimes they do so for competitive reasons, he added.

But in the Persian Gulf, where traffic is lighter, Mr. Smith said, vessels generally do not turn off the system, known in the industry as A.I.S.

“If the A.I.S. signal is lost, it is almost certainly because the A.I.S. transponder has been disabled or turned off,” Mr. Smith said of ships in the Persian Gulf. “The captain has decided to turn off the A.I.S.”

Another possible clue that Iran-bound ships are disabling their reporting systems is that ships making trips to countries on the western part of the gulf are not going off the grid.

The SC Mercury, another of the Sinochem ships, disappeared for about nine days at the end of December and into January, vanishing close to where the Sino Energy 1 disappeared last week, the tracking data show. But in early April, the ship’s course through the Persian Gulf had no interruptions in its signal. The destination that time was the United Arab Emirates.

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White House Is Pressing for Additional Options, Including Cyberattacks, to Deter Iran

Westlake Legal Group 23DC-shadow-facebookJumbo White House Is Pressing for Additional Options, Including Cyberattacks, to Deter Iran United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Ships and Shipping Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Drones (Pilotless Planes) Cyberwarfare and Defense central intelligence agency

WASHINGTON — American intelligence and military officers are working on additional clandestine plans to counter Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf, pushed by the White House to develop new options that could help deter Tehran without escalating tensions into a full-out conventional war, according to current and former officials.

The goal is to develop operations similar to the cyberattacks conducted on Thursday and that echo the shadow war the United States has accused Tehran of carrying out with attacks on oil tankers in the Middle East, according to American officials briefed on the effort. Iran maintains that it was not responsible for the attacks on the tankers.

The cyberattacks were aimed at an Iranian intelligence group that American officials believe was behind a series of attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf region. The American operation was intended to take down the computers and networks used by the intelligence group, at least temporarily. A separate online operation was aimed at taking out computers that control Iranian missile launches.

The White House has told military and intelligence officials it also now wants options in line with the kind of operations conducted by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the officials said.

President Trump has made clear he believes that, at this point, a direct strike would be escalatory, although he has repeatedly warned Iran against further aggression.

Intelligence and military officials have told White House policymakers, including Mr. Trump, that without an additional American response, Iran will continue to destabilize the region.

Some divisions of opinion in the administration remain. A number of senior national security officials agree that further action against Iran is needed, but they are divided about how public that action needs to be.

Officials did not provide specifics about the secret operations under consideration by the White House. But they could include a wide range of activities such as additional cyberattacks, clandestine operations aimed at disabling boats used by Iranians to conduct shipping attacks, and covert operations inside Iran aimed at fomenting more unrest. The United States might also look for ways to divide or undermine the effectiveness of Iranian proxy groups, officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive, confidential administration planning.

The C.I.A. has longstanding secret plans for responding to Iranian provocations. Senior officials have discussed with the White House options for expanded covert operations by the agency, as well as plans to step up existing efforts to counter Iran’s efforts, according to current and former officials.

One former American military commander said there was a range of options that the Pentagon and the C.I.A. could pursue that could keep Iran off balance but that would not have “crystal-clear attribution” to the United States. An American operation that was not publicly announced could still deter further action by Tehran, if Iran understood what United States operatives had done, the former officer said.

The types of responses the United States could undertake are broad if the United States was willing to use the same tactics that Iran has mastered, said Sean McFate, a professor at the National Defense University and the author of “The New Rules of War.”

“If we want to fight back, do it in the shadows,” he said.

Mr. McFate said the United States could put a bounty on Iran’s paramilitary and proxy forces. That would create an incentive for mercenary forces to take on Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies. American intelligence forces also could find new ways to assist existing protests against the Iranian government. Such efforts could include spreading information, either embarrassing truths or deliberate false rumors, aimed at undermining the support that Tehran’s elites have for Iran’s leaders, he said. The United States could also look at ways to make protests by Iran’s labor movement more effective at weakening the government.

Current and former officials say that Iran’s covert attacks against shipping and its downing of an American drone are an attempt to try to raise pressure on the United States. Iran, they say, hopes that by sowing chaos in the Persian Gulf it can drive up oil prices, which will put pressure on Mr. Trump and American allies dependent on Middle Eastern oil. Iran maintains that the drone it shot down had violated its airspace; American officials insist it had been over international waters.

“From the Iranian perspective, unconventional attacks, threats against Gulf shipping and air routes and bellicose rhetoric represent the best ways to pressure the international community to compel the U.S. to relieve sanctions without igniting a conventional conflict,” said Norman T. Roule, a former national intelligence manager for Iran and a C.I.A. Middle East expert.

Some officials believe the United States needs be willing to master the kind of deniable, shadowy techniques Tehran has perfected in order to halt Iran’s aggressions. Others think that, while helpful, such clandestine attacks will not be enough to reassure American allies or deter Iran.

Iran will probably pause its activities for a time, senior American officials said. But, with sanctions biting, they say Iran will once again resume attacks on shipping. That will once more force the White House to consider a direct military strike.

While so-called gray zone operations are meant to stay below the threshold of inciting open conflict, the moves always run the risk of touching off exactly what both sides are trying to avoid: a shooting war.

Moreover, some online operations are far easier than others. Knocking an intelligence agency’s computers offline, as the United States did with Russia last year during the midterm American elections, is fairly basic. But getting inside a missile launch operation is much harder; although the United States succeeded in doing so in North Korea, it took a long time and prompted the North Koreans to build an entirely different missile system.

The Iranians also now have much greater capability to strike back in the cyber realm than they did a decade ago. Their foray into American banks in 2012 and 2013 was, in retrospect, a training exercise. When the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning on Saturday about Iranian cyberthreats, it described much greater capabilities. Iran’s “cyber corps” has now had years of training in causing damaging attacks, like the one it conducted on a Las Vegas casino and other targets in the United States.

Mr. Roule also agreed the United States response needed to be public and clear. “The best U.S. options will not be covert,” he said. “Overt options send the strongest message of deterrence. Iran needs to know that the U.S. — supported by the international community — will not tolerate its behavior.”

Mr. Trump has been stung by criticism about his decision to call off the strikes after the Iranian drone attack. But the president believes a combination of covert operations by the C.I.A. and clandestine operations by the military’s Cyber Command and other military forces will demonstrate his resolve as commander in chief, a senior administration official said.

The president is eager to avoid a messy shooting war with Iran, which he believes would violate his campaign promise to keep America out of protracted conflicts in the Middle East. A shadow war would reduce the exposure of American troops and, if Iran was unsure of whether the United States or its allies were responsible, its response could be muted.

Authoritarian powers, like Iran, have an easier time with hybrid conflicts built on deceptions and falsehoods.

For example, Russian tactics in Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014 demonstrated the effectiveness of hybrid warfare in a post-Cold War era. Russia was able to leverage confusion, obfuscation and violence to achieve geopolitical gains.

Russian special forces without insignia, the so-called little green men, helped Moscow seize Crimea. And Russian-backed separatists, commanded by Russian military officers, have effectively cut off eastern Ukraine from the rest of the country, despite international outcry.

Iran has its own track record of using hybrid tactics, mostly through the use of its proxy forces in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.

After the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran became adept at striking the United States without provoking a direct response. Tehran’s militia proxy forces regularly fired rockets at American bases in Iraq, and Iran flooded the battlefield with a particularly deadly form of roadside bomb that penetrated some of the best American military armor.

In past decades, though, the United States was much better at thinly veiled, shadow operations. During the Cold War, the United States regularly used unconventional tactics, proxy forces and its intelligence agency to keep adversaries off balance.

The C.I.A. began mining Nicaraguan harbors in 1984: The nominally covert, but well publicized, operations were not aimed at sinking ships. Instead, the agency’s real target was the international insurance markets.

The Reagan administration, which was backing the Contra rebels, hoped raising insurance rates would reduce shipping, raising prices on critical goods and increasing public pressure on the leftist Nicaraguan government.

Iran’s strikes on tankers in recent weeks echo that old C.I.A. operation, current and former officials said. After initial strikes on tankers last month, Lloyd’s of London, the international insurance company, announced it would effectively raise insurance rates for the entire Persian Gulf.

Reviving America’s old tactics and finding a way to copy Iran’s new ones could be the best way to try to halt Tehran’s current campaign, Mr. McFate said. The defensive measure the United States has taken, including deploying an aircraft carrier and Patriot missile batteries to the region, have not halted Iran’s activities.

“Iran is playing by the new rules, he said, “while we are using the obsolete ones, and wonder why Iran’s behavior is not changing.”

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White House Is Pressing for Additional Options, Including in Cyberspace, to Deter Iranian Attacks

Westlake Legal Group 23DC-shadow-facebookJumbo White House Is Pressing for Additional Options, Including in Cyberspace, to Deter Iranian Attacks United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Ships and Shipping Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Drones (Pilotless Planes) Cyberwarfare and Defense central intelligence agency

WASHINGTON — American intelligence and military officers are working on additional clandestine plans to counter Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf, pushed by the White House to develop new options that could help deter Tehran without escalating tensions into a full-out conventional war, according to current and former officials.

The goal is to develop operations similar to the cyberattacks conducted on Thursday and that echo the shadow war the United States has accused Tehran of carrying out with attacks on oil tankers in the Middle East, according to American officials briefed on the effort. Iran maintains that it was not responsible for the attacks on the tankers.

The cyberattacks were aimed at an Iranian intelligence group that American officials believe was behind a series of attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf region. The American operation was intended to take down the computers and networks used by the intelligence group, at least temporarily. A separate online operation was aimed at taking out computers that control Iranian missile launches.

The White House has told military and intelligence officials it wants options in line with the kind of operations conducted by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the officials said.

President Trump has made clear he believes that, at this point, a direct strike would be escalatory, although he has repeatedly warned Iran against further aggression.

Intelligence and military officials have told White House policymakers, including Mr. Trump, that without an additional American response, Iran will continue to destabilize the region.

Officials did not provide specifics about the secret operations under consideration by the White House. But they could include a wide range of activities such as additional cyberattacks, clandestine operations aimed at disabling boats used by Iranians to conduct shipping attacks and covert operations inside Iran aimed at fomenting more unrest. The United States might also look for ways to divide or undermine the effectiveness of Iranian proxy groups.

The C.I.A. has longstanding secret plans for responding to Iranian provocations. Senior officials have discussed with the White House options for expanded covert operations by the agency, as well as plans to step up existing efforts to counter Iran’s efforts, according to current and former officials.

One former American military commander said there were a range of options that the Pentagon and the C.I.A. can pursue that could keep Iran off balance but that would not have “crystal-clear attribution” to the United States. An American operation that was not publicly announced could still deter further action by Tehran, if Iran understood what United States operatives had done, the former officer said.

The types of responses the United States could undertake are broad if the United States was willing to use the same tactics that Iran has mastered, said Sean McFate, a professor at the National Defense University and the author of “The New Rules of War.”

“If we want to fight back, do it in the shadows,” he said.

Mr. McFate said the United States could put a bounty on Iran’s paramilitary and proxy forces. That would create an incentive for mercenary forces to take on Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies. American intelligence forces also could find new ways to assist existing protests against the Iranian government. Such efforts could include spreading information, either embarrassing truths or deliberate false rumors, aimed at undermining the support that Tehran’s elites have for Iran’s leaders, he said. The United States could also look at ways to make protests by Iran’s labor movement more effective at weakening the government.

Current and former officials say that Iran’s covert attacks against shipping and its downing of an American drone are an attempt to try to raise pressure on the United States. Iran, they say, hopes that by sowing chaos in the Persian Gulf it can drive up oil prices, which will put pressure on both Mr. Trump and American allies dependent on Middle Eastern oil. Iran maintains that the drone it shot down had violated its airspace, while American officials insist it had been over international waters.

“From the Iranian perspective, unconventional attacks, threats against Gulf shipping and air routes and bellicose rhetoric represent the best ways to pressure the international community to compel the U.S. to relieve sanctions without igniting a conventional conflict,” said Norman T. Roule, a former national intelligence manager for Iran and a C.I.A. Middle East expert.

While a number of senior American national security officials agree that further action against Iran is needed, they are divided about how public that action needs to be.

Some officials believe the United States needs be willing to master the kind of deniable, shadowy techniques Tehran has perfected in order to halt Iran’s aggressions. Others think that, while helpful, such clandestine attacks will not be enough to reassure American allies or deter Iran.

Iran will most likely for a time pause its activities, said senior American officials. But, with sanctions biting, they say Iran will once again resume attacks on shipping. That will once more force the White House to consider a direct military strike.

While so-called gray zone operations are meant to stay below the threshold of inciting open conflict, the moves always run the risk of touching off exactly what both sides are trying to avoid: a shooting war.

Moreover, some online operations are far easier than others. Knocking an intelligence agency’s computers offline, as the United States did with Russia last year during the midterm American elections, is fairly basic. But getting inside a missile launch operation is much harder; while the United States succeeded in doing so in North Korea, it took a long time and prompted the North Koreans to build an entirely different missile system.

The Iranians also now have much greater capability to strike back in the cyber realm than they did a decade ago. Their foray into American banks in 2012 and 2013 was, in retrospect, a training exercise. When the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning on Saturday about Iranian cyberthreats, it described much greater capabilities. Iran’s “cyber corps” has now had years of training in causing damaging attacks, like the one it conducted on a Las Vegas casino and other targets in the United States.

Mr. Roule also agreed the United States response needs to be public and clear. “The best U.S. options will not be covert,” he said. “Overt options send the strongest message of deterrence. Iran needs to know that the U.S. — supported by the international community — will not tolerate its behavior.”

Mr. Trump has been stung by criticism about his decision to call off the strikes following the Iranian drone attack. But the president believes a combination of covert operations by the C.I.A. and clandestine operations by the military’s Cyber Command and other military forces will demonstrate his resolve as commander in chief, a senior administration official said.

The president is eager to avoid a messy shooting war with Iran, which he believes would violate his campaign promise to keep America out of protracted conflicts in the Middle East. A shadow war would reduce the exposure of American troops and, if Iran was unsure of whether the United States or its allies were responsible, its response could be muted.

Authoritarian powers, like Iran, have an easier time with hybrid conflicts built on deceptions and falsehoods.

For example, Russian tactics in Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014 demonstrated the effectiveness of hybrid warfare in a post-Cold War era. Russia was able to leverage confusion, obfuscation and violence to achieve geopolitical gains.

Russian special forces without insignia, the so-called little green men, helped Moscow seize Crimea. And Russian-backed separatists, commanded by Russian military officers, have effectively cut off eastern Ukraine from the rest of the country, despite international outcry.

Iran has its own track record of using hybrid tactics, mostly through the use of its proxy forces in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.

After the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran became adept at striking the United States without provoking a direct response. Tehran’s militia proxy forces regularly fired rockets at American bases in Iraq, and Iran flooded the battlefield with a particularly deadly form of roadside bomb that penetrated some of the best American military armor.

In past decades, though, the United States was much better at thinly veiled, shadow operations. During the Cold War, the United States regularly used unconventional tactics, proxy forces and its intelligence agency to keep adversaries off balance.

The C.I.A. began mining Nicaraguan harbors in 1984: The nominally covert, but well publicized, operations were not aimed at sinking ships. Instead, the agency’s real target was the international insurance markets.

The Reagan administration, which was backing the Contra rebels, hoped raising insurance rates would reduce shipping, raising prices on critical goods and increasing public pressure on the leftist Nicaraguan government.

Iran’s strikes on tankers in recent weeks echo that old C.I.A. operation, current and former officials said. After initial strikes on tankers last month, Lloyd’s of London, the international insurance company, announced it would effectively raise insurance rates for the entire Persian Gulf.

Reviving America’s old tactics and finding a way to copy Iran’s new ones could be the best way to try to halt Tehran’s current campaign, said Mr. McFate. The defensive measure the United States has taken, including deploying an aircraft carrier and Patriot missile batteries to the region, have not halted Iran’s activities.

“Iran is playing by the new rules, he said, “while we are using the obsolete ones, and wonder why Iran’s behavior is not changing.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Distrusting Both Iran and U.S., Europe Urges ‘Maximum Restraint’

BRUSSELS — Speaking of the attacks this week on fuel tankers in the Gulf of Oman, President Trump said flatly on Friday that “Iran did do it.” European governments may also think that Iran is probably to blame, but their distrust of the Trump administration and its hawkish policy toward Tehran have led them to measure their words, and call for de-escalation and “maximum restraint.”

Mindful of Washington’s exaggerations and outright misrepresentations of intelligence leading up to the Iraq war, European leaders are asking the Trump administration for hard evidence. The last thing they want is to be asked to support another American war in the Middle East that would be highly unpopular with voters.

Europeans are no fans of the Iranian government or its policies in the Middle East, but they are concerned by what they see as the Trump administration’s policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran — thus their use of maximum restraint. Many critics believe Mr. Trump is succeeding only in creating maximum pressure among hard-line factions in Iran to respond with carefully calibrated attacks that send a message, like those against tankers in a vital passageway for global oil supplies.

Germany wants a careful investigation of the attacks, insisting that “a spiral of escalation must be avoided.” The European Union, in the words of the spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic, has “said repeatedly that the region doesn’t need further escalation, it doesn’t need further destabilization, it doesn’t need further tension.”

Ms. Kocijancic said that European foreign ministers would discuss Iran and other issues at a regular meeting on Monday.

In the absence of hard intelligence, with American agencies notably quiet, European governments — with the possible exception of Britain — are wary about blaming Iran. They are reluctant to accept the White House’s claims at face value, and do not want to provide Washington with any pretext for war.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_156030510_53c441c9-bf5e-454c-a501-85d054f427c3-articleLarge Distrusting Both Iran and U.S., Europe Urges ‘Maximum Restraint’ United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Ships and Shipping Saudi Arabia Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Gulf of Oman European Union Europe Defense and Military Forces China Bolton, John R Abe, Shinzo

President Trump and President Emmanuel Macron of France this month. Europeans are publicly unhappy with Mr. Trump’s decision to pull the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

Europeans are publicly unhappy with Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal and to reimpose harsh economic sanctions on Iran, including shutting down most of its oil exports. They have continued to support the deal and are trying to ensure that Iran stays within its limits, to avoid tougher sanctions or an act that Israel or the United States would see as justification for war.

More broadly, they are troubled by “the sheer unpredictability of American policy toward Iran,” said Ian Lesser, a former American official who now runs the Brussels headquarters of the German Marshall Fund. “These events are against a backdrop of longstanding anxiety about U.S. policy toward Iran and its aims. When pressed, Europeans are mostly on the same page with Washington about Iran’s behavior. But the difference is over policy, and there is a basic lack of confidence in the discourse with Washington.”

These kinds of attacks are what Europeans predicted when Mr. Trump pulled out of the Iran deal, said Ellie Geranmayeh, an Iran expert with the European Council on Foreign Affairs. “Most European governments are surprised how long Iran has played the strategic patience card, especially after the increase in American sanctions in November,” she said.

Assuming Iran is behind these attacks, which is not yet certain, she said, “Europe sees this as a calculated, managed and fairly rational response to continual and increased U.S. sanctions pressure. We’ll keep seeing cycles of this escalation, designed to make everyone in the region nervous.” What worries Europeans, she said, is “the likelihood of missteps, miscalculations.”

The Iranians, having lived with American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for years, think they understand “the red buttons,” Ms. Geranmayeh said. “But they also need to send signals that the oil embargo is unacceptable, and they need to make Trump realize this, so you do it through rising oil prices and getting his base nervous about another Mideast war in the run-up to the election. But Iranians could get it wrong.”

Nathalie Tocci, a senior adviser to the European foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said, “Before we blame someone, we need credible evidence.” Iranians are deeply rational actors, she said. And for Iran to have attacked a Japanese ship when the Japanese prime minister was in Tehran “is not an especially rational thing to do.”

Ms. Tocci also said that Washington’s policy was having the predictable effect of weakening moderates in Iran and strengthening the hand of hard-liners. As the United States escalates, she said, “the people we work with in Iran are becoming weaker by the day, so we can’t expect retaliatory measures not to take place.”

A young worker in Tehran. The renewed United States sanctions have exacerbated a severe economic crisis in Iran.CreditEbrahim Noroozi/Associated Press

What Europe does not want is Iran breaking the limits of the nuclear deal, which could force Europeans to reimpose their own sanctions.

The Pentagon, United States Central Command and American intelligence agencies all predicted attacks on shipping — sparing American targets and causing no loss of life — as a response to increased American pressure, said Kori Schake, a former Pentagon official who is now deputy director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Iran followed a similar policy in the 1980s, in the context of the Iran-Iraq war, when Washington backed Iraq and United States and British warships escorted tankers through dangerous waters.

“There’s a lot of suspicion in Europe about American motives,” said François Heisbourg, a French defense analyst. “The maritime milieu is especially susceptible to manipulation — remember the Gulf of Tonkin,” a dubious report of naval hostilities that President Lyndon B. Johnson used to escalate the war in Vietnam. And then, he said, are the bitter memories of the Iraq war, which was based on faulty intelligence and badly split Europe.

Those suspicions only deepened Friday, when Japanese shipping executives insisted that their tanker was hit not by a mine, as American officials had said implies, but by a “flying object.”

Mr. Heisbourg said, there are several potential beneficiaries from the attacks, among them Washington hard-liners like the national security adviser, John R. Bolton; “wild ones in Saudi Arabia or in the Emirates or the Revolutionary Guards in Iran”; or anyone who wants higher oil prices.

But what worries many is that Tehran might misjudge Mr. Trump’s stated unwillingness to go to war. “This may lead Iran to miscalculate,” Mr. Heisbourg said. “It may well be that they attacked the tankers because they don’t think America will retaliate.”

That leaves Europeans wondering where the Americans are pushing them.

“As the stakes rise, public opinion will become more important,,” Mr. Heisbourg said, “And European public opinion won’t be favorable to doing anything militarily with Mr. Trump.”

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How Tanker Attacks in the Strait of Hormuz Could Affect Oil Prices

The Strait of Hormuz, sometimes described as the world’s most important oil choke point, is a gateway for almost a third of all crude oil and other petroleum products carried by tanker.

But it is also an increasingly dangerous place because of recent attacks on tankers, raising fears that the route is vulnerable to assaults that could threaten and destabilize oil prices.

After the apparent attack on Thursday on two tankers just outside the strait, tanker operators were quick to voice concerns.

“We have people of every nationality and vessels of every flag transiting that crucial sea lane,” said Paolo d’Amico, chairman of International Association of Independent Tanker Owners. “If the waters are becoming unsafe, the supply to the entire Western world could be at risk.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_156389934_4c7179ca-0b51-4123-bfa1-f856f46e9f2b-articleLarge How Tanker Attacks in the Strait of Hormuz Could Affect Oil Prices Strait of Hormuz Ships and Shipping Pipelines Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Iran Gulf of Oman Fujairah (United Arab Emirates)

An oil tanker after it was attacked at the Gulf of Oman.CreditIranian Students’ News Agency, via, Reuters

The oil-producing countries around the Persian Gulf, including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran, are crucial for supplying the world oil market. Most of their exports, around 18 million barrels a day or about 20 percent of world demand, must travel through the Strait of Hormuz.

The strait, separating the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Iran, is 21 miles wide at its narrowest point, but the width of the shipping lane in either direction is only two miles wide, according to the United States Energy Information Administration. Dozens of ships a day move through the passage.

The bulk of this traffic heads for Asian markets like China, India and Japan. Large volumes of liquefied natural gas, an increasingly important fuel, follow the same route from the tiny emirate of Qatar.

But this area has been rocked by instability in recent weeks. In May, there were reports that four oil vessels were attacked near the Strait of Hormuz, heightening concerns over rising tensions between Iran and the United States. A day later, a drone strike on oil pipelines, claimed by Houthi rebels, forced the Saudis to suspend the flow of oil to the western side of the country.

On Thursday, two more tankers were rocked with explosion and fire near the strait. At least one vessel was set ablaze, and crews were forced to abandon ship.

The carrier Abraham Lincoln in the Gulf of Oman in May. Experts doubt that the Strait of Hormuz could be completely shut down, in part because of the United States Navy’s presence in the region.CreditMatt Herbst/US Navy, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Iran’s coastline covers much of the east side of the gulf, and analysts say that, as the United States tightens sanctions on Iran, Tehran would be well placed to harass shipping with small boats, missiles, mines and other weapons. Experts doubt that the Strait of Hormuz could be shut down, in part because the United States Navy maintains a robust presence in the region.

Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, an investment bank, notes that the Iranians have been mentioned as possible suspects behind the attacks and that they may consider such tactics an appropriate response to the sanctions, which “are viewed from Tehran as economic warfare designed to elicit regime change.”

Analysts say that whoever was behind the recent attacks may be trying to make the point that there is no way around the gulf routes. The reports of attacks in May on four ships occurred in waters off Fujairah, an important port on the Gulf of Oman with facilities designed to bypass the straits.

Read more about the recent attacks
Tankers Are Attacked in Mideast, and U.S. Says Video Shows Iran Was Involved

June 13, 2019

Saudi Oil Infrastructure at Risk as Small Attacks Raise Potential for Big Disruption

May 17, 2019

Saudi Arabia does have a safety valve in case the strait became too dangerous: an East-West pipeline that could carry crude to the port of Yanbu on the Red Sea coast. But the drone attack claimed by the Houthi rebels managed to briefly shut that route down.

The other Gulf producers, including Iran, are more dependent on the strait for their exports although Abu Dhabi has an oil pipeline to Fujairah.

A port in the Gulf emirate of Fujairah.CreditKarim Sahib/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

So far, the oil markets have largely taken the attacks in stride, although “the fact that we have had a second series of incidents has definitely heightened concern,” said Richard Mallinson, an analyst at Energy Aspects, a market research firm.

Prices for Brent crude rose about 3.5 percent on Thursday to more than $61 a barrel but remain well below their recent highs of about $72 a barrel in mid-May.

Analysts say that traders are probably betting that the smoldering tensions will not burst into a full-blown conflict. Another factor is that slowing growth in the world economy, weighed down by trade tensions between the United States and China, has weakened demand for oil.

And then there is the American resurgence in production to consider. There is a sense, Ms. Croft said, that the shale oil boom in the United States, where oil production grew an extraordinary 17 percent last year, can compensate for any jolts in world oil supply.

Ms. Croft worries that a major conflict or a cyberattack that shuts off a large portion of Gulf exports could prove a rude awakening. “There is no way the market is insulated from that because of U.S. shale,” she said.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

How Tanker Attacks in the Strait of Hormuz Could Affect Oil Prices

The Strait of Hormuz, sometimes described as the world’s most important oil choke point, is a gateway for almost a third of all crude oil and other petroleum products carried by tanker.

But it is also an increasingly dangerous place because of recent attacks on tankers, raising fears that the route is vulnerable to assaults that could threaten and destabilize oil prices.

After the apparent attack on Thursday on two tankers just outside the strait, tanker operators were quick to voice concerns.

“We have people of every nationality and vessels of every flag transiting that crucial sea lane,” said Paolo d’Amico, chairman of International Association of Independent Tanker Owners. “If the waters are becoming unsafe, the supply to the entire Western world could be at risk.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_156389934_4c7179ca-0b51-4123-bfa1-f856f46e9f2b-articleLarge How Tanker Attacks in the Strait of Hormuz Could Affect Oil Prices Strait of Hormuz Ships and Shipping Pipelines Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Iran Gulf of Oman Fujairah (United Arab Emirates)

An oil tanker after it was attacked at the Gulf of Oman.CreditIranian Students’ News Agency, via, Reuters

The oil-producing countries around the Persian Gulf, including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran, are crucial for supplying the world oil market. Most of their exports, around 18 million barrels a day or about 20 percent of world demand, must travel through the Strait of Hormuz.

The strait, separating the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Iran, is 21 miles wide at its narrowest point, but the width of the shipping lane in either direction is only two miles wide, according to the United States Energy Information Administration. Dozens of ships a day move through the passage.

The bulk of this traffic heads for Asian markets like China, India and Japan. Large volumes of liquefied natural gas, an increasingly important fuel, follow the same route from the tiny emirate of Qatar.

But this area has been rocked by instability in recent weeks. In May, there were reports that four oil vessels were attacked near the Strait of Hormuz, heightening concerns over rising tensions between Iran and the United States. A day later, a drone strike on oil pipelines, claimed by Houthi rebels, forced the Saudis to suspend the flow of oil to the western side of the country.

On Thursday, two more tankers were rocked with explosion and fire near the strait. At least one vessel was set ablaze, and crews were forced to abandon ship.

The carrier Abraham Lincoln in the Gulf of Oman in May. Experts doubt that the Strait of Hormuz could be completely shut down, in part because of the United States Navy’s presence in the region.CreditMatt Herbst/US Navy, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Iran’s coastline covers much of the east side of the gulf, and analysts say that, as the United States tightens sanctions on Iran, Tehran would be well placed to harass shipping with small boats, missiles, mines and other weapons. Experts doubt that the Strait of Hormuz could be shut down, in part because the United States Navy maintains a robust presence in the region.

Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, an investment bank, notes that the Iranians have been mentioned as possible suspects behind the attacks and that they may consider such tactics an appropriate response to the sanctions, which “are viewed from Tehran as economic warfare designed to elicit regime change.”

Analysts say that whoever was behind the recent attacks may be trying to make the point that there is no way around the gulf routes. The reports of attacks in May on four ships occurred in waters off Fujairah, an important port on the Gulf of Oman with facilities designed to bypass the straits.

Read more about the recent attacks
Tankers Are Attacked in Mideast, and U.S. Says Video Shows Iran Was Involved

June 13, 2019

Saudi Oil Infrastructure at Risk as Small Attacks Raise Potential for Big Disruption

May 17, 2019

Saudi Arabia does have a safety valve in case the strait became too dangerous: an East-West pipeline that could carry crude to the port of Yanbu on the Red Sea coast. But the drone attack claimed by the Houthi rebels managed to briefly shut that route down.

The other Gulf producers, including Iran, are more dependent on the strait for their exports although Abu Dhabi has an oil pipeline to Fujairah.

A port in the Gulf emirate of Fujairah.CreditKarim Sahib/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

So far, the oil markets have largely taken the attacks in stride, although “the fact that we have had a second series of incidents has definitely heightened concern,” said Richard Mallinson, an analyst at Energy Aspects, a market research firm.

Prices for Brent crude rose about 3.5 percent on Thursday to more than $61 a barrel but remain well below their recent highs of about $72 a barrel in mid-May.

Analysts say that traders are probably betting that the smoldering tensions will not burst into a full-blown conflict. Another factor is that slowing growth in the world economy, weighed down by trade tensions between the United States and China, has weakened demand for oil.

And then there is the American resurgence in production to consider. There is a sense, Ms. Croft said, that the shale oil boom in the United States, where oil production grew an extraordinary 17 percent last year, can compensate for any jolts in world oil supply.

Ms. Croft worries that a major conflict or a cyberattack that shuts off a large portion of Gulf exports could prove a rude awakening. “There is no way the market is insulated from that because of U.S. shale,” she said.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

How Tanker Attacks on a Skinny Waterway Could Affect Oil Prices

The Strait of Hormuz, sometimes described as the world’s most important oil choke point, is a gateway for almost a third of all crude oil and other petroleum products carried by tanker.

But it is also an increasingly dangerous place because of recent attacks on tankers, raising fears that the route is vulnerable to assaults that could threaten and destabilize oil prices.

After the apparent attack on Thursday on two tankers just outside the strait, tanker operators were quick to voice concerns.

“We have people of every nationality and vessels of every flag transiting that crucial sea lane,” said Paolo d’Amico, chairman of International Association of Independent Tanker Owners. “If the waters are becoming unsafe, the supply to the entire Western world could be at risk.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_156389934_4c7179ca-0b51-4123-bfa1-f856f46e9f2b-articleLarge How Tanker Attacks on a Skinny Waterway Could Affect Oil Prices Strait of Hormuz Ships and Shipping Pipelines Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Iran Gulf of Oman Fujairah (United Arab Emirates)

An oil tanker after it was attacked at the Gulf of Oman.CreditIranian Students’ News Agency, via, Reuters

The oil-producing countries around the Persian Gulf, including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran, are crucial for supplying the world oil market. Most of their exports, around 18 million barrels a day or about 20 percent of world demand, must travel through the Strait of Hormuz.

The strait, separating the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Iran, is 21 miles wide at its narrowest point, but the width of the shipping lane in either direction is only two miles wide, according to the United States Energy Information Administration. Dozens of ships a day move through the passage.

The bulk of this traffic heads for Asian markets like China, India and Japan. Large volumes of liquefied natural gas, an increasingly important fuel, follow the same route from the tiny emirate of Qatar.

But this area has been rocked by instability in recent weeks. In May, there were reports that four oil vessels were attacked near the Strait of Hormuz, heightening concerns over rising tensions between Iran and the United States. A day later, a drone strike on oil pipelines, claimed by Houthi rebels, forced the Saudis to suspend the flow of oil to the western side of the country.

On Thursday, two more tankers were rocked with explosion and fire near the strait. At least one vessel was set ablaze, and crews were forced to abandon ship.

The carrier Abraham Lincoln in the Gulf of Oman in May. Experts doubt that the Strait of Hormuz could be completely shut down, in part because of the United States Navy’s presence in the region.CreditMatt Herbst/US Navy, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Iran’s coastline covers much of the east side of the gulf, and analysts say that, as the United States tightens sanctions on Iran, Tehran would be well placed to harass shipping with small boats, missiles, mines and other weapons. Experts doubt that the Strait of Hormuz could be shut down, in part because the United States Navy maintains a robust presence in the region.

Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, an investment bank, notes that the Iranians have been mentioned as possible suspects behind the attacks and that they may consider such tactics an appropriate response to the sanctions, which “are viewed from Tehran as economic warfare designed to elicit regime change.”

Analysts say that whoever was behind the recent attacks may be trying to make the point that there is no way around the gulf routes. The reports of attacks in May on four ships occurred in waters off Fujairah, an important port on the Gulf of Oman with facilities designed to bypass the straits.

Read more about the recent attacks
In Gulf of Oman, Tankers Are Struck Again, Raising Fears of Wider Conflict

June 13, 2019

Saudi Oil Infrastructure at Risk as Small Attacks Raise Potential for Big Disruption

May 17, 2019

Saudi Arabia does have a safety valve in case the strait became too dangerous: an East-West pipeline that could carry crude to the port of Yanbu on the Red Sea coast. But the drone attack claimed by the Houthi rebels managed to briefly shut that route down.

The other Gulf producers, including Iran, are more dependent on the strait for their exports although Abu Dhabi has an oil pipeline to Fujairah.

A port in the Gulf emirate of Fujairah.CreditKarim Sahib/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

So far, the oil markets have largely taken the attacks in stride, although “the fact that we have had a second series of incidents has definitely heightened concern,” said Richard Mallinson, an analyst at Energy Aspects, a market research firm.

Prices for Brent crude rose about 3.5 percent on Thursday to more than $61 a barrel but remain well below their recent highs of about $72 a barrel in mid-May.

Analysts say that traders are probably betting that the smoldering tensions will not burst into a full-blown conflict. Another factor is that slowing growth in the world economy, weighed down by trade tensions between the United States and China, has weakened demand for oil.

And then there is the American resurgence in production to consider. There is a sense, Ms. Croft said, that the shale oil boom in the United States, where oil production grew an extraordinary 17 percent last year, can compensate for any jolts in world oil supply.

Ms. Croft worries that a major conflict or a cyberattack that shuts off a large portion of Gulf exports could prove a rude awakening. “There is no way the market is insulated from that because of U.S. shale,” she said.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com