U.S. Sanctions Against Iranian Shipping Interests Enforced

(file photo)

Published Jun 9, 2020 11:55 AM by The Maritime Executive

Sweeping U.S. sanctions against Iranian shipping interests have gone into effect six months after the Trump Administration announced its intention as part of its ongoing efforts to pressure the Iranian government. According to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the action is targeted at “WMD proliferators and their supporters.”

The U.S. Government has increasingly been seen as going after shipping interest as a means of pressuring rogue governments. Recently, the U.S. sanctioned a series of tankers and operators for dealing with the Venezuelan government. Angered by the recent Iran – Venezuela gasoline deal, The Wall Street Journal is now reporting that the State Department is considering sanctions on up to 50 additional tankers for dealings with the Venezuelan oil industry.  

The new sanctions announced by the departments of State and Treasury target the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) and its Shanghai-based subsidiary, E-Sail Shipping Company Ltd (E-Sail). A total of 121 tankers, containerships, and other vessels were included in a listing published by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Saying that the “generous delay” of the sanctions was coming to an end, Pompeo said,” To allow exporters of humanitarian goods to Iran sufficient time to find alternate shipping methods, we postponed the effective date of these designations for 180 days.”

The U.S. warned that the commercial and maritime industries doing business with Iran must use carriers or shipping methods other than IRISL or E-Sail or risk exposure to U.S. WMD sanctions. The U.S. is also urging government authorities worldwide to investigate all IRISL and E-Sail activities in local ports and territorial seas and to take appropriate action to put a halt to it.

“IRISL has repeatedly transported items related to Iran’s ballistic missile and military programs and is also a longstanding carrier of other proliferation-sensitive items, including Nuclear Suppliers-Group controlled items,” said Pompeo. 

The Trump administration had announced its intention to level these sanctions in December 2019 at the time saying, “The Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines – it’s the shipping line of choice for Iranian proliferators and procurement agents … E-Sail knowingly transports illicit materials from Iran’s Aerospace Industries Organization, which oversees all of Iran’s missile industry. It has also worked with at least two other Iranian organizations subject to UN sanctions.”

It was the latest in a series of actions taken by the United States aimed specifically at the shipping industry. In May, the U.S. issued a global advisory detailing the deceptive shipping practices being used by Iran, North Korea, and Syria to evade the current economic sanctions warning the shipping industry to be vigilant or face sanction violations. 

The advisory warned a broad range of organizations, including ship owners/operators, brokers, chandlers, flag registries, port operators, freight forwarders, classification societies, and financial institutions, to be alert for voyage irregularities. The warning cited a range of tactics often used to disguise the destination or origin of cargo or recipients by using indirect routing, unscheduled detours, or transit or transshipment of cargo through third countries as well as disabling automatic identification systems, altering vessel identification, and the use of complex business structure to hide ownership, among other tactics.

complete list of the ships cited in the current sanctions was posted by the U.S. Treasury Department.