Liquid petroleum gas tankers have been spotted travelling between the Porto Romano Port in Albania and the Baniyas port in Syria. There are currently a number of sanctions in place, from the EU and US, prohibiting the supply of fuel and other energy products to Syria.
One of the vessels that has been travelling repeatedly between the two destinations was chartered by Albanian company AV International Group, owned by the owner of Porto Romano, Pirro Bare.
The story begins with an LPG tanker called Melody (IMO 8800298). This vessel has been spotted as recently as 13 December at Porto Romano and is now off the coast of Cyprus, bound for Syria. The vessel has a capacity of 3946 cubic metres of LPG and refuels in Albania before heading on to the port of Baniyas.
But she wasn’t always called Melody. In 2015, she was called Blue Way and had sanctions slapped on her by the US Department of the Treasuring. The vessel was owned by a Turkish company called Milenyum Energy S.A. Several Turkish nationals linked to the company, which is also known as Milenyum Denizcilik Gemi, were also sanctioned.
The reason given for the sanctions was that they were responsible for providing energy products to the Assad regime, to continue fuelling the war in Syria. It noted that the company could have been a front company that the regime was using to purposely evade US and EU sanctions.
The Treasury noted:
“In recent years, Milenyum has responded to the Syrian regime’s energy needs by regularly arranging for the shipment of products such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and gasoil to the Syrian Government-controlled port of Baniyas, likely for SYTROL or other Syrian government entities.”
But despite the sanctions placed on it, the vessel continues to work under its new name, Melody, between Porto Romano and Baniyas. Satellite imagery places the vessel both Porto Romano and off the shore of Baniyas as recently as this month. This information was revealed via an investigation by Noam Raydan who had been tracking the tanker for several months.
It is now owned by what appears to be a shell company called NFS Shipping Inc, a company registered in Saint Kitts and Nevis. Its name has changed three times since 2015 and it’s changed its flag three times as well between Mongolia, Tanzania, and Comoros- all rogue states for maritime flags.
It was also found that the tanker turned off its AIS transponder off the coast of Cyprus, a sign that it didn’t want its Syrian destination known. Known as “going dark”, it is not only a red flag but it’s considered a breach of Flag State requirements and SOLAS. On this particular occasion, it had departed from Porto Romano on 16 November.
But the Melody is not the only tanker travelling between Albania and Syria. The Jaguar S (IMO 9175169) has also been spotted by Raydan travelling between Porto Romano and Baniyas as recently as June 2020. According to TankerTrackers.com, it picked up fuel at Romano on 15 May and arrived in Syria a month later. Again, the vessel appears to have switched its AIS system off prior to anchoring in Turkey.
In April 2019, the Jaguar S was chartered by a company owned by Pirro Bare, the owner of Porto Romano. According to a detention list published by the Paris Memorandum of Understanding, the Jaguar S was chartered by AV International Group SH.A, based at Romano and owned by Bare. The company was formerly known as A&V-Gas Sh.a which was a trader of LPG.
Bare is also the owner of the Porto Romano port
In terms of who owns Jaguar S, it’s currently held by Jaguar Shipping Ltd and the manager is a company called Dry Denizcilik Ve Gemi Islet. Exit could not confirm if it was indeed the same owners as that of Milenyum Denizcilik Gemi.
In summary, there appear to be vessels travelling between Albania’s Porto Romano Port and Syria’s Baniyas Port. They are LPG vessels owned by a network of companies and registered in flag of convenience states. Furthermore, at least one of them has had US sanctions placed on it for supplying the Assad regime with energy. One of the vessels, the Jaguar S, owned by a company with a similar name to the sanctioned entity that owned the Melody, was chartered by an Albanian company, owned by Pirro Bare who also owns the Porto Romano port.