Emilio Lozoya Austin, CEO of Mexico’s state-controlled oil company PEMEX, has visited Keppel Fels shipyard in Singapore, where the company’s two jack-up rigs are under construction, said PEMEX in a press release issued on Wednesday.
The rigs, of KFELS B Class jackup design, are scheduled for delivery in 2015. The two jack-ups, able to operate in water depths of up to 400 feet and drill to depths of 30,000 feet, will be deployed in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
During his visit, Lozoya Austin said that PEMEX is undergoing the most ambitious drilling program in decades. He said that the Mexican oil company is working to become an oil company with the world’s highest number of jack-up rigs in operation.
Lozoya Austin also added that, as a part of Pemex’s rig fleet expansion program, eight to twelve new offshore jack-up rigs will be constructed. Pemex currently operates 41 offshore drilling rigs, five of which are semi-submersibles and 36 of those are jack-ups.
The head of PEMEX, the world’s fourth-largest crude producer at 2.5 million barrels per day, also visited the Jurong shipyard SembCorp and SembCorp PPL.
- Keppel Expands Foothold in Mexican Offshore Market with Two Jackup Orders Worth US$420 Million (maritime-executive.com)
- Seadrill’s West Pegasus Sets Deepwater Drilling Record Off Mexico (gcaptain.com)
- McDermott announces $230 million deal with Pemex (fuelfix.com)
- Mexico’s Leftist Party Plans Campaign to Protect State-Owned Pemex (hispanicallyspeakingnews.com)
Malaysia is aiming to become Asia’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) trading hub by 2020 with the establishment of a $1.3 billion LNG terminal in the Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex (PIPC), the country’s Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a statement Thursday.
The LNG terminal – also known as the Pengerang Independent Deepwater Petroleum Terminal (PIDPT) – will be developed by the Johor state government, Netherland’s Royal Vopak and Malaysia’s Dialog Group.
PIDPT – which will be constructed over two phases – is designed to have a total storage capacity of five million cubic meters. The terminal will be used for storage, loading and regasification of LNG, both for trading and domestic use. The first construction phase of PIDPT has already started, and is scheduled for completion by 1Q 2014.
“This will be the first independent LNG trading terminal in Asia, allowing multiple LNG users to store and trade the product. It will spur the growth of the [petroleum] industry, and help establish Malaysia as Asia’s LNG trading hub,” Razak said.
PIPC will also house Petronas’ new $20 billion refinery and petrochemical integrated project. The project – scheduled to be commissioned by 2016 – will be able to produce 300,000 barrels per day of refined products.
Malaysia’s PIPC has been touted as a potential strong competitor to Singapore’s Jurong Island – an artificial island located to the southwest of the main island of Singapore, off Jurong Industrial Estate. Singapore is, at present, the Asian price discovery center and trading hub for oil products due to its significant oil storage and trading infrastructure in Jurong Island. The island which is home to oil and gas companies – such as ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, BASF, Celanese, Mitsui Chemicals – sees up to 1.3 million barrels of crude processed each day.
Singapore is also aggressively developing its oil and gas storage infrastructure. The island-city, through the development of the Jurong Rock Cavern (JRC) project, will create an additional 1.47 million cubic meters of oil storage space by 2013. JRC is the first underground rock cavern for oil storage in Singapore and Southeast Asia. Construction work on JRC started in February 2007.
- Malaysia ‘wants to be Asia’s hub’ (todayonline.com)
- BG Group inks pipeline deal for LNG terminal (calgaryherald.com)
- Shell to Build Kitimat LNG Terminal Despite China Investment (mb50.wordpress.com)
- U.S. Expected to Approve Expanded LNG Exports to Japan (mb50.wordpress.com)
- USA: Golden Pass Files with DOE to Export LNG (mb50.wordpress.com)
Daewoo International, the trading arm of POSCO, announced on May 25 that it has won a large shipbuilding order in cooperation with Sungjin Geotec, another POSCO affiliate. Under the deal with Swire Pacific Offshore (SPO) of Singapore, Daewoo International will build a $20 million offshore supply vessel (OSV). Daewoo International and Sungjin Geotec will deliver the vessel to SPO within one year.
Sungjin Geotec specializes in offshore plant equipment and modules for global energy markets.
An offshore supply vessel is used for diving assistance or oceanographic surveys for offshore oil platforms. Amid a worldwide boom in marine energy exploration, OSVs are becoming increasingly important.
“The victory was a result of Daewoo`s extensive overseas network and information power, combined with specialized technologies of Sungjin, which has long been involved in the OSV market,” Daewoo International said in a press release. “This will be remembered as a good example of how partnership between different POSCO affiliates can create synergy“.
“The partnership with Daewoo International was the key ingredient to winning the contract,” a Sungjin representative commented. Sungjin Geotec plans to strengthen its ties with Daewoo International to expand its presence in global OSV markets.
- STX OSV Adds to their Backlog, DOF ASA Sends Newbuild Order for Subsea Construction Vessel (mb50.wordpress.com)
- STX OSV to Build Two OSCVs for Siem Offshore (Norway) (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Norway: STX OSV Strengthens Specialist Technology with New Acquisitions (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Norway: Siem Offshore Orders Two OSCVs from STX OSV (worldmaritimenews.com)
Houston-based subsea well intervention specialist, Helix Energy Solutions Group, Inc., has signed a contract with Sembcorp Marine’s subsidiary Jurong Shipyard in Singapore for the construction of its newbuild semisubmersible well intervention rig previously announced by Helix in February. The estimated value of the contract is US$385.5 million.
Owen Kratz, Helix’s Chairman and CEO, stated, “We are pleased to have selected a proven partner in Jurong Shipyard to leverage on our market and technological leadership in subsea well intervention. This new asset, engineered and designed based on the lessons learned from our successful Q4000 platform, is being constructed to meet an increasing market demand for specialized deepwater well intervention services worldwide. We look forward to the delivery of this new-generation advanced well intervention vessel and plan to expand this business segment even further.”
The semi-submersible well intervention rig will be built based on Bassoe Technology’s naval architectural design with Helix’s equipment layout. Featuring the latest technology, the rig is an efficient purpose-designed platform with capabilities to perform a wide variety of tasks, including conventional and extended top hold drilling, subsea construction, decommissioning well intervention, coiled tubing operations and twin ROV deployment.
Mr Don Lee, Senior General Manager, Jurong Shipyard’s Offshore Division said, “We are honoured that Helix has entrusted us with the construction of this highly specialised deepwater semi-submersible well intervention rig. This rig is Jurong Shipyard’s first specialised platform with well intervention and subsea capabilities and represents a significant advance for us in this growing new market segment. We would like to thank Helix for awarding us this contract, which is a testament to Jurong Shipyard’s rig construction capabilities and versatility in developing purpose-designed solutions for the offshore industry. We are committed to build on this new partnership with Helix and to meet their stringent standards of quality, safety and reliability
- USA: Helix to Build New Semi-Sub Well Intervention Vessel (mb50.wordpress.com)
- McDermott signs agreement for spool base services in Gulf of Mexico (mb50.wordpress.com)
- USA: Helix’s Oil & Gas Revenues Rise on High Prices and Lift in Production (mb50.wordpress.com)
- UK: Talisman Selects Helix Well Ops for Subsea Works on Its Assets (mb50.wordpress.com)
Rogers spoke with Business Insider to discuss commodities, the global economy, his legendary career, and his life in Singapore.
What follows is the complete transcript of our interview with Jim Rogers.
Inflation, Commodities and the Consumer
What is feeding into oil prices at the moment?
Iran obviously, is one thing, but another is in the U.S. it’s the infrastructure problem. We have oil but it’s in the wrong places. On the east coast, they use imported oil, and imported oil is higher because of Iran. And it comes from Europe. North Sea production is in decline. There are supply-demand reasons that oil prices are high in many parts of the world. And known reserves of oil are in decline worldwide. And the IEA is going around telling people that known reserves are in a steady decline and we’re going to have a huge problem in a decade or two, a gigantic problem, unless somebody finds a lot of oil very quickly. So underneath the supply-demand, shorter term it’s infrastructure and Iran probably.
At what level do you think oil prices will break the back of the American recovery?
We are going to have a slowdown. Such is the staggering debt that America has, it has caused more and more of a drag on our economy. I would also point out to you that every four to six years we’ve had an economic slowdown in the U.S., since the beginning of time, so by 2012, 2013, 2014, we are well overdue for an economic slowdown for whatever reason. Whether it’s caused by high oil or what, we’re going to have a slowdown in the foreseeable future.
How do you see oil prices impacting consumers in emerging markets, especially in Asia, when many of them are struggling to rein in inflation and drive growth?
Everybody is paying higher prices for oil and that obviously impacts consumption everywhere and its not just oil, its food and everything else that’s going up. There’s inflation everywhere, the U.S. lies about it, I mean the U.S. government lies about inflation but there’s inflation everywhere. I mean I don’t know if you go shopping, but if you do, you know prices are up. The government says they’re not, I don’t know where they shop. Everybody else’s prices are up.
If you could own / invest in just one commodity which would it be?
I guess it would have to be one of the agricultural commodities, it would depend on which is down the most but it would be agriculture I can tell you that.
You said earlier this year that if gold moved towards $1,600 you would be interested in buying more. Are you looking at gold now?
I’m certainly watching, if it goes below $1,600 I’m sure I’ll buy more. If it goes to $1,200 I hope I’m smart enough to buy a lot more. Gold has been up 11 years in a row now, which is extremely unusual for any asset. So it would not surprise me if gold doesn’t … continue to have a nice correction in 2012. If it does, if it does, I hope I’m smart enough to buy a lot more. I’m not selling. I’m not selling. I have not sold and will not sell until the bubble comes. There will be a bubble in gold some day but that’s ten years, I don’t know, several years from now. I hope I’m smart enough to sell when the bubble comes.
China and the emerging markets
You’re a China bull. Could you tell me the one thing that you think China bears have got wrong?
Not quite sure. If you mean the people who say China is going to explode. Those guys have been saying that for three years. I guess someday they’ll be right. So far they’ve been dead wrong, for years. There will be setbacks in China along the way. In America in the19th century we had 15 depressions with a capital “D,” we had no human rights, we had not much rule of law, (and we) had a horrible civil war, yet we became the most successful country in the 20th century.
China is going to have plenty of setbacks but what these guys are mainly missing is China has been in decline for three or four hundred years but started turning it around in 1978. And there’s a long history of entrepreneurship, capitalism, they have the brains, they have the know-how, there are many overseas Chinese who will bring back money and management ability. And the Chinese have a very, very high savings rate. They save over 35 percent of their income and so even if they start going off, they’ve got something to fall back on, as opposed to America and the rest of the world.
There was a housing bubble in urban, coastal real estate, which the government has popped purposely, I mean they knew what they were doing. But as far as, I mean Jim Chanos, says it’s going to be a thousand times worse than Dubai. Well that shows he doesn’t understand Dubai, and he doesn’t understand China. Now I’ve told him this to his face though, so I’m not talking behind his back. China is vastly different from Dubai, vastly.
Could you explain how Dubai and China’s real estate property problems differ?
Dubai was building its plan, its economic plan was to build an economy based on real estate speculation. It didn’t have anything else. It didn’t have oil, natural resources, it had a small population etc. and there was gigantic real estate speculation in construction. China has huge amounts of stuff. It has a growing population. It has vast natural resources, not enough, but it’s got some. And then all those natural resources in Siberia which they can tap and they’ve got huge financial reserves. Dubai does not. Dubai has a rich big brother, but that’s all Dubai has and China has it all – resources, cheap labor, discipline, educated labor and vast markets.
China lowered their growth rate, wage inflation is worrying and it’s the year of leadership change. Do you think China is in control in terms of their property prices and economic growth…
I doubt the government planned to have a bubble. They got a bubble. I mean they’ve been trying to cool it off and they’ve done so. As far as the lower growth rates, I don’t pay attention to government growth figures because they’re all phony. Nobody knows how much China is growing, including China. I don’t pay attention to all of these figures. They’re not important to me. They’re irrelevant. China is certainly doing better than most countries and it will continue to do so. It will have setbacks. There’s nothing that says China should not have a recession. But China has a lot of money saved for a rainy day and when it rains they’re going to spend. America doesn’t have any money saved for a rainy day. And when it rains we’re going to try to borrow it or print it,neither of which is good for America or for the world.
You have said previously that India is a great place to travel but not a great place for investors. What is the one thing that you do think makes a good investment opportunity in India?
Tourism. Tourism in India, partly because the Chinese can now travel and are traveling, and they’re very close and India is cheap. Indian tourism is going to be a wonderful, wonderful growth area in the next decade, or two, or three.
You have previously said those that invest in Myanmar could be rich in the next 20 – 40 years. Myanmar is beginning its process of reforms and is beginning to end its economic isolation form the West – what are your thoughts on Myanmar now?
China made the decision to open up in late ’78 but it took a while to put things in place. Myanmar has made the decision, they don’t even have their currency sorted out yet, so it’s going to take a while, but no ,everyday that goes by, I get more excited. Unfortunately I’m a citizen of the land of the free and we from the land of the free are not allowed to invest in Myanmar, it’s illegal. You could invest there, but I cannot.
Life in Singapore and career advice
What’s the one thing you miss the most about the U.S.? Conversely what’s the one thing Singapore has that the U.S. doesn’t?
Well I don’t really miss… I mean I go to the U.S., I was just there last week. My main complaint about Singapore is not a serious complaint but it’s not very bi-cycle friendly. The U.S. is much more bicycle friendly. I guess I wish Singapore were as bicycle friendly as parts of the U.S.
What’s your typical day like in Singapore?
“I take my daughters to school. We wake up at six because they have to get to school early. I take them on the bicycle, I come back, I exercise I have interviews while I’m exercising. I collect my daughters. I have lunch with them. Then in the afternoons I’ll have meetings, go on the computer or whatever. At night I’ll have dinner with my family unless we’re going out and then my wife and I will go out and do whatever the dinner is. And then I’ll go the disco. That’s a joke.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever got?
“Buy low and sell high. When I went to wall street. Actually all the old guys used to say ‘figure out the money and you’ll figure out what’s going on’. And so I don’t know of any specific individual but that’s advice I got a lot of times.
What’s the worst job you have ever had?
“Worst job? I don’t remember. Maybe the U.S. army, but even that, I don’t ever remember having a bad job. I was a grocery store boy when I was a teenager but even that, I learned, I don’t remember being unhappy in any job I’ve ever had. In the army, I would have liked to have done other things with those two years but even those two years were not totally wasted.”
Read more: BI
- JIM ROGERS: Jim Chanos Is Wrong About China And I Said It To His Face (businessinsider.com)
- JIM ROGERS: The Government Is Lying About Inflation And It’s Crushing The Consumer (businessinsider.com)
- 10 Quotes From The Always Charming Commodities Guru Jim Rogers (businessinsider.com)
- China Is About To Take A HUGE Step Toward Internationalizing Its Currency (businessinsider.com)
- Jim Rogers: Greece deal is a sham! (investmentpostcards.com)
EMAS, a leading global offshore contractor and provider of integrated offshore solutions to the oil and gas (O&G) industry and operating brand for Ezra Holdings Limited announces two further contract awards worth a total of approximately US$131.5 million.
EMAS’s fabrication division, recently rebranded as TRIYARDS, has been awarded a US$76.5 million contract to fabricate and deliver a self-elevating mobile offshore platform/unit for a client based in Asia Pacific. The unit will be manufactured by the Group’s fabrication division’s yard in Vung Tau, Vietnam, the Group’s second yard facility in country. The fabrication division provides fabrication and vessel design as well as engineering services and has previously built one of the world’s largest self propelled jack-up rigs of its kind.
In a separate announcement EMAS reported its subsea division, EMAS AMC, has been awarded a US$55 million contract for SURF (subsea umbilicals, risers and flowlines) installation and pipe lay from Statoil for work in the North Sea.
Mr Lionel Lee, EMAS’s Managing Director, said: “Our continued stream of new contract wins across the globe by our various divisions validates our internationalisation strategy. We had identified subsea services for our next phase of growth, and since our strategic acquisition of Aker Marine Contractors last year to form EMAS AMC, we have been able to push our Group orderbook to almost US$2 billion in a short span of a year.
“The offshore energy industry is increasingly recognising EMAS as a trusted global player. Our contracts now come from beyond Asia Pacific, and include the challenging environments of the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea. I am extremely delighted with the momentum and track record we have achieved, and I am confident we will be able to sustain this growth with all our divisions competing for projects around the world.”
EMAS recently announced the award of a US$70 million contract (with options valued at US$30 million) from Apache Energy Limited, allowing EMAS AMC to achieve its US$1 billion subsea orderbook target ahead of time.
- Norway: EMAS AMC Wins Fram SURF Deal from Statoil (mb50.wordpress.com)
- EMAS Wins $55 Million Subsea Installation Contract at Statoil’s Fram Field (gcaptain.com)
- Norway: Statoil Orders Subsea Structures for Asgard (mb50.wordpress.com)
- ExxonMobil Awards Technip GoM Subsea Contract (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Mexico: Cal Dive Nets Second Pemex Contract (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Ichthys: The Largest Subsea Gig for McDermott (Australia) (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Australia: Heerema Wins Subsea Installation Contract for Ichthys Project (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Norway: Subsea 7 Charters Island Intervention Vessel (mb50.wordpress.com)
- USA: Genesis to Support Shell’s SURF Projects (mb50.wordpress.com)
Unique Maritime Group, one of the world’s leading integrated turnkey subsea and offshore solution providers, announced today the introduction of the Light Weight Taut Wire MK 15 B to their rental pool inventory.
The Light Weight Taut Wire Mk 15B is a position-reference system used extensively with Dynamic Positioning of vessels, which is designed to provide accurate data of a surface vessel’s movement with respect to the position of a depressor weight on the sea floor.
Harry Gandhi, CEO of Unique Maritime Group commented on the addition “We are happy to introduce this Cost-effective, Well-proven and reliable technology to our customers with an operational water depth up to 300 m”.
The Light Weight Taut Wire Mk 15B is a position reference system designed for use in deck-mounted port or starboard position on surface vessels. A wire is maintained at a constant tension by means of a depressor weight on the sea-bed and a pneumatic and electric servo-assisted “mooring” system. Any movement of the vessel will cause the tensioned wire to deviate from its initial inclination. This movement activates potentiometers mounted in the gimbal (sensor) head and produces changes of analogue signals directly proportional to the deviation in inclination, which is interfaced to the Dynamic Positioning of the vessel.
About Unique Maritime Group
Founded in 1993, Unique Maritime Group is one of the world’s leading integrated turnkey subsea and offshore solution providers. Through its expanding network of companies, UMG is a specialist in the provision of services, and the sale and rental of equipment for the marine, diving, hydrographic, oceanographic, and NDT market sectors. The group has an established manufacturing capability for the delivery of customized engineering projects worldwide. UMG has local presence in USA, UK, South Africa, India, Middle East, Russia and Singapore and employs over 500 people worldwide.
- Special Report: Iran’s cat-and-mouse game on sanctions (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Norway: Kleven Maritime Receives Contract for Rem Fortune Renovation (mb50.wordpress.com)
(Reuters) – Just before noon on a sticky, overcast Saturday morning earlier this month a truck carrying two white containers waited at an electronic checkpoint to leave Singapore’s main port. The containers bore the bright red letters IRISL, the initials of Iran‘s cargo line, which has been blacklisted by the United Nations, United States and European Union.
Anchored just off Singapore’s playground island of Sentosa that same day, the container ship Valili was also stacked high with IRISL boxes. A couple of miles to the east the Parmis, another container ship, also carried IRISL crates. Shipping movements data tracked by Reuters shows the Parmis had pulled into Singapore waters from the northern Chinese port of Tianjin early that morning.
The ships and containers are key parts in an international cat-and-mouse game, as Iran attempts to evade the trade sanctions tightening around it. Washington and European capitals want to stop or slow Iran’s nuclear program. They believe Iran Shipping Lines(IRISL), which moves nearly a third of Iran’s exports and imports and is central to the country’s trade, plays a critical role in evading sanctions designed to stop the movement of controlled weapons, missiles and nuclear technology to and from Iran.
IRISL would not comment for this story. Last June the company said in an interview that there was no evidence it had been involved in arms trafficking. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful and that IRISL has no links with any weapons program. Tehran complained vigorously last June when the European Union followed the United States with beefed-up sanctions that banned new contracts with IRISL. A United Nations resolution forces all states to inspect IRISL’s cargo.
But many in the West hold up IRISL as exhibit A for Iran’s ability to evade sanctions because the shipping line regularly reflags its ships and changes their official owners.
An analysis of shipping data sheds new light on that deception. Using data from IHS Fairplay, a ship tracking group that uses ship registration documents from various sources, and Reuters Freight Fundamentals Database, which compiles location data from every ship’s Automatic Identification System, shows that despite the sanctions 130 of the 144 banned ships in IRISL’s fleet continue to call at many of the world’s major ports hidden behind a web of shell companies and diverse ownership.
Dozens of Iranian ships have used Singapore several hundred times in the past two years, for instance, as a stop-off on their way to other destinations such as China.
The data shows that in the 48 months before U.S. sanctions began in September 2008, IRISL made 345 changes to its fleet including names, the flags ships sailed under, operators, managers and registered owners. In the 40 months since sanctions began there have been at least 878, including 157 name changes, 94 changes of flag, 122 changes of operator, and 127 changes of registered ownership.
Hugh Griffiths, head of Countering Illicit Trafficking-Mechanism Assessment Projects at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, says what’s unique about those changes is their pace and scale. Normally a ship’s name or flag changes when its owner sells it after a decade or so.
“In the Iranian case, none of these apply because it’s not based on the normal commercial reasons you’d expect,” he said. “Nothing on this scale has ever been seen before in recent history.”
John Dalby, a former oil tanker captain and chief executive of Marine Risk Management, a global consultancy and maritime security company, agrees. “When you add name changes, flag changes, changes of operators and then changes of registered owners – especially if it is, to all intents and purposes, the same owner – it means they are trying to hide. Especially so many in such a relatively short space of time.”
The Parmis and Valili operate under the flag not of Iran but of Barbados and Malta, respectively. On paper they are no longer part of IRISL, having both changed owners, operators and flag in the past couple of years. But a unique seven-figure “IMO number” issued to each known ship in the world for its entire lifespan reveals the identity of each ship as a sanctioned vessel ultimately owned by the Iranian cargo line. The brightly painted IRISL containers sitting on the ships’ decks add to the impression that the ships are still Iranian.
“They certainly don’t work too hard to disguise themselves here,” said the owner of a tanker management company in Singapore.
The Iranian government has a knack for survival. Sanctions may be hurting ordinary Iranians – grain ships to the Islamic republic have been diverted as Tehran struggled to find credit to finance its food supplies – but Tehran often figures out a way around such blockages.
As far back as late 2010, according to a report from a Middle Eastern intelligence agency, which was confirmed by European diplomats with access to their own intelligence, an Iranian committee boasted that the West had only discovered half of the shell companies and front individuals it used to hide its trading empire; the sanctions were seen as “harmless in Asian countries.”
A WEB OF OWNERS
When the Singapore checkpoint light turned green earlier this month, the truck driver turned onto an expressway and headed towards the crossing to Malaysia. Just shy of the border he turned into an industrial estate. Within 10 minutes another three trucks with IRISL containers had arrived.
In every port a ship visits, it needs someone on the ground to sort out its paperwork and organize its cargo. In Singapore that used to be done for Iranian vessels by IRISL’s regional office, Asia Marine Network, which was placed under financial sanctions by the United States in 2008.
A June 2011 indictment by the Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, alleges that IRISL’s Singapore head, Alireza Ghezelayagh, and Singaporean businessman Cheong Kheng Guan tried to get round those sanctions, in particular a ban on any U.S. dollar transfers by IRISL.
The two men were among five people and 11 companies in three countries named in the 317-count indictment that charged IRISL and its agents with illegal use of banks in Manhattan. The companies were said to have “deceived Manhattan banks into processing more than $60 million worth of payments using aliases or corporate alter egos to hide their conduct.”
The indictment says that one of Cheong’s eight shipping agencies in Singapore, Sinose Maritime, entered into a joint venture with Iran’s Asia Marine Network. Sinose Maritime then became the exclusive agent for IRISL in the city-state, the indictment says. Cheong and Ghezelayagh also established a new company, Leading Maritime, just eight days after Asia Marine was placed under sanctions.
The Manhattan DA’s office, which declined to comment because its investigations are continuing, alleges that bank records it has obtained show that two of the Singapore companies, Sinose and Leading Maritime, channeled a total of around $41.8 million through the American financial system on behalf of IRISL.
The money moved in 120 different wire payments that the DA’s office claims went via the New York branches of HSBC, Bank of New York Mellon, Standard Chartered and Deutsche Bank, causing them to inadvertently breach their sanction obligations. None of those banks were said to have any knowledge of the IRISL connection and none have been charged by the DA’s office.
After Cheong’s indictment last June, he stood down as a director and shareholder from eight of the 10 companies he was listed as holding, according to the Singapore Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority registry.
But his companies and employees remained active, and there is evidence to indicate that not all ties to IRISL were severed.
One of Cheong’s former companies, Global Maritime Investments, is listed as the manager of a newly built ship called the Adelina. Commissioned by IRISL and completed in 2010, the Adelina, a container ship, obtained a Singapore flag last December. But Thomson Reuters-owned due-diligence database Accelus lists the “Group Beneficial Owner” of Adelina as Iran Shipping Lines. The latest data from ship consultancy Alphaliner also shows the Adelina is still operated by IRISL.
The Adelina last left Singapore on January 18. Reuters tracked the ship as it steamed up the Red Sea, through the Suez Canal and the Aegean Sea. After stopping at Istanbul it sailed to the Russian port of Novorossiysk on the Black Sea where it moored yesterday.
“TOO MUCH POLITICS”
The day before Cheong stepped down last June, Global Maritime got a new director: Danny Yau, also the director of a further six companies owned or directed by Cheong. As well as now running Global Maritime, Yau has set up a new shipping agency, Hardsea Agencies Pte Ltd. Sitting in his new office overlooking Singapore’s Tanjog Pagar port, Yau said Hardsea is a simple shipping agency, unattached to IRISL.
“Not directly, we don’t deal with them, we’re just agents for certain ships to carry cargo, general cargo,” he said when asked of his firm’s relationship with the Iranian line. “It doesn’t break UN rules or sanctions.”
Yau declined to elaborate when contacted later about Global Maritime Investments and the Adelina’s links to IRISL. “I don’t say anything; it’s too much politics,” he said.
Another of Cheong’s employees at Sinose Maritime, Ling Chong Yung, is listed as the director of Adelina’s official owner, Pride Shipping Oriental Pte. Reuters visited Ling at the offices of Damilang Maritime, a newly established shipping agency two streets away from Yau’s new office.
Office staff said Ling had left for China on a business trip the day before, but all inquiries related to Pride Shipping had to go through Yau at Hardsea Agencies, who they referred to as “the boss”.
Cheong, meanwhile, is still at work in the shipping business.
Visited at a drab office block on an industrial estate in the Buona Vista area of Singapore, Cheong declined to speak. He later responded to questions via email. He said none of the companies he is involved in do any work on behalf of IRISL. Sinose Maritime, he said, is in the course of being liquidated.
“In so far as the indictment against me is concerned, it is entirely unjustified. I have instructed solicitors in the U.S. to defend the case vigorously and to defeat the charges which are totally without any foundation,” he said.
HIGH COURT SHERIFF
Not everyone agrees with Washington’s claims that IRISL is still in charge of ships that visit Singapore. When Singapore’s High Court Sheriff seized three IRISL ships in September 2010 for failing to meet their credit arrangements, the court considered whether Singapore should, under UN sanctions, continue to hold the ships even after the payments were made.
The city-state is clear on its attitude to sanctions: it will implement those agreed on by the United Nations, but will not take any unilateral action or subscribe to those issued unilaterally by the United States or European Union.
The UN embargo orders IRISL assets be frozen, including those of “any person or entity acting on their behalf or at their direction, and to entities owned or controlled by them.”
But the judge in the 2010 case, Justice Quentin Loh, decided that the UN sanctions target specific IRISL entities such as IRISL Benelux, and not the three companies listed as the owners of the ships. He also ruled that even if UN sanctions did apply, they did not imply that commercial assets such as ships should be seized. Singapore released the vessels.
Loh concluded: “Links to IRISL itself are, by themselves, neither here nor there.”
Reuters Freight Fundamentals shows that Singapore has received at least 150 visits by 83 ships believed to be IRISL-linked over the past two years.
A spokesman for the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that “Singapore enforces all United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions against Iran. We do not enforce the unilateral sanctions by any jurisdiction which go beyond the UNSC sanctions. In this regard, Singapore understands that IRISL in itself is not a UN-designated entity.”
The foreign affairs spokesman said Cheong Kheng Guan “faces proceedings under U.S. law for engaging in business dealings with and having facilitated the activities of U.S.-designated entities. Based on what we know, there has been no violation of UNSC sanctions or Singapore law in this particular case.”
U.S. diplomatic sources privately say that they wish Singapore would take a harder line.
SUNNY MALTA, IRANIAN HIDEOUT
And it’s not just Singapore. Twenty three sanctioned Iranian ships have visited 12 EU ports since July 2010, when the EU imposed its own first sanctions on IRISL, including 96 stop-offs in Malta, 14 visits to Antwerp and 10 to Rotterdam.
As well, 48 Iran-linked ships sail under the flag of Malta and 12 under that of Cyprus.
In the Mediterranean island of Malta, authorities say trade with Iran has been declining steeply, with exports down to 144,996 euros ($191,000) in 2010 from more than 2 million euros in 2008 and 2009. Joseph Cole, the chairman of the Maltese sanctions monitoring board, said a contract between IRISL and Malta Freeport will not expire until November 2013, but an intensive program of customs inspections had already driven the shipping line away.
“We have made it so difficult for IRISL ships that they have reduced their operation to Malta to almost nil – even though technically they can still come,” said Cole.
Movement data for IRISL’s fleet, however, show that 18 ships have visited Malta’s Freeport over the last two years, three of them as recently as November.
IRISL containers could be seen stacked on the concrete yards of the Freeport last week. Despite being a member of the European Union, Malta not only supplies flagging services to IRISL ships, but is also home to 24 shell companies that help conceal Iran’s ownership of vessels.
In the Grand Harbour of Malta, below the sandstone ramparts of the capital Valletta, a grey-painted building houses Transport Malta. The agency earns around 300,000 euros annually from registering IRISL ships, according to an estimate by Reuters based on a table of tariffs on the agency’s website. It declined to comment, citing commercial sensitivity.
It is also home to the country’s public shipping register where – recorded in longhand in large paper volumes – is the paper trail of Iran’s shell games, as well as evidence of those who have worked for the country.
As sanctions have tightened, the Maltese register shows, Iran’s ships have regularly switched not just flags, but names, registered owners, registered agents, and the addresses of owners and agents. The Alva, for instance, a 66,500-deadweight tonnes (DWT) container vessel, has had three different owners since it was built in Germany in 2008 and acquired by IRISL that year. It originally flew a German flag. IRISL switched that to a Maltese flag, then back to a German one in 2010, then again to Maltese last year.
READY TO SACRIFICE
Most Maltese lawyers and agents now refuse to act for IRISL. Not only are new commercial contracts with the Iranian line banned under EU sanctions, existing ties have been scrapped by most agents to avoid damage to their reputation, according to two Maltese lawyers. That has pushed most business into the hands of a small Maltese outfit, the Royal-Med Shipping Agency, which has an office on the sea front in the tourist resort of Sliema. The agency is now under direct U.S. sanctions as an alleged cover operation for IRISL.
The Royal-Med agency’s steel shutters were drawn shut one day last week. A phone call later to Royal-Med’s listed number was answered by an employee who said the agency “was in the process of closing down. We have no activity.”
The employee, who declined to give his name, said Royal-Med had previously acted as agents at the Freeport for IRISL and then for HDS Lines, a company named by the U.S. government and the EU as a subsidiary of IRISL. He said HDS had decided to end visits to the island last November, leaving Royal-Med with no business.
Dr Tonio Borg, Malta’s foreign minister, says IRISL has such a large Maltese fleet because the country has such a large shipping register. Malta’s role as Europe’s biggest registry was not the result of lax regulation. “We see it as a flag of confidence, not of convenience,” he said.
Asked about Malta’s connections to IRISL, he revealed that Malta was prepared to de-register Iran’s entire sanctioned fleet. “We’re moving in that direction,” he said. But Iran should not be allowed simply to relocate its ships to other European countries, he said.
“We believe that all services to IRISL should be prohibited,” said Borg. “We are ready to make that sacrifice – provided that all countries also make the sacrifice� Otherwise it would be masochistic.”
(Rachel Armstrong reported from Singapore, Stephen Grey from London and Valletta, and Himanshu Ojha from New York; with additional reporting by Jonathan Saul and Philip Baillie in London, Christopher Scicluna in Malta, and Mitra Amiri in Tehran; writing by Stephen Grey; edited by Simon Robinson and Sara Ledwith)
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