‘What is new is the overwhelming number of smaller ships and dhows intercepted that are carrying Iraqi crude,’ says an MIF spokesperson. ‘There are also a number of larger vessels still slipping through carrying oil in hidden tanks.’ Of the 109 vessels diverted back to Iraq in August some 98 were dhows, carrying on average 100 tonnes of oil each.

MIF – comprising vessels from 15 countries operating on a rotational basis – is mandated under the terms of UN Security Council Resolutions 661 and 665 to enforce sanctions that prohibit Iraq selling crude outside the oil-for-food programme and acquiring weapons of mass destruction. It is assisted in this role by the US navy, which maintains the largest foreign naval presence in the region (MEED 20:9:02, Cover Story).