25 January 2024






2 mins

To add to merchant shipping’s long list of concerns surrounding the security situation in the Middle East, Iran is readying to launch the first drone carrier – SHAHID BAGHERI a former containership.

She was built in South Korea by Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) in 2000 as the 3,280 TEU container ship IRAN ASFAHAN. Trading until 2007 she was renamed as TWELFTH OCEAN until December 2008 and renamed DANDLE still owned by Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line (IRISL) until May 2012.

She used to call at Malta Freeport, Marsaxlokk Harbour part of IRISL container network and has renamed a total of 90 out of her 123 ships since 2008. The company also reflagged a significant percentage of its fleet, which dropped off the list of the top 100 fleets in the world in April 2011. IRISL previously was ranked as the 23rd largest container line in the world.

She was renamed again as SARITA  until September 2002 and SARVIN until 2022 where she was renamed as SHAHID BAGHERI to be converted to a drone carrier at the ISOICO shipyard near Bandar Abbas and is now controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). She is being hailed as a Mobile Naval City ensuring the security of Iran’s trade lines and the rights of Iranian sailors and fishermen in the seas.

The base ship idea has been taken up by the Iranian Navy, which converted an Aframax tanker into a giant “forward base ship” in 2021. At 105,000 dwt, the MAKRAN ranks among the largest naval vessels in the world, though she is considerably shorter than a carrier.

Among the modifications is an increased deck with a runway of around 170 meters. An angled flight deck is being added on to the port side of the vessel of which will enable operations by large Iranian-built UAVs with offensive capabilities, such as the Shahed-129.

The ship can now accommodate the departure and landing of a large fleet of long-range fixed-wing drones. The vessel is expected to cause disruptions to vessels in the Arabian Sea.

Vice Admiral Brad Cooper of the US Navy’s 5th Fleet has confirmed that Iran has been involved in actively supporting the Houthis by providing resources, funding, and training. Iran has been assisting the Houthi Rebels in Yemen in targeting passing merchant ships for the past three months. Around 35 merchant vessels have been targeted by the Houthi drones and missiles so far. A car carrier named GALAXY LEADER was hijacked and currently remains in Yemeni waters.

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