U.S. sanctions on Iranian shipping resume

November 6, 2018 - American sanctions on Iran took full effect once more on Monday, and the U.S. Treasury Department has published a new list of blacklisted Iranian entities. The government-owned Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) and the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) appear prominently, along with their vessels and subsidiaries. 

The sanctions are intended to "disrupt the Iranian regime’s ability to fund its broad range of malign activities," according to the Treasury, and to pressure Iran into fully abandoning its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs. Iran has extensive involvement in the ongoing civil wars in Syria and Yemen, and according to the Treasury, one blacklisted IRISL subsidiary has been used regularly by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to transfer cargo and personnel to ports in the Persian Gulf region. 

In a notice, Treasury said that Iran has resumed the practice of renaming and transferring ownership of its vessels in order to keep its commerce flowing, as it did during the previous round of sanctions. Four ships on the new blacklist recently underwent name changes and partial ownership changes, but are still IRISL property. "The global maritime industry should be on alert for Iran’s use of such tactics and make every effort to thwart Iran’s use of their jurisdictions to create front companies; to revoke their flags from IRISL and NITC vessels; and to deny other means that enable Iran to conceal its interest in the vessels," Treasury warned. 

One newly-sanctioned vessel on the Treasury's list, the NITC-operated Suezmax tanker Sanchi, will not pose a compliance problem. In January, the Sanchi collided with another vessel off Shanghai, setting off a disastrous chain of events. Her cargo of one million barrels of condensate caught fire, exploded and burned for nearly two weeks, and she went down on January 14. Her entire crew of 32 is presumed dead. 

According to vessel-tracking services, the rest of the Iranian-owned fleet has "gone dark" and turned off its AIS transponders. As eight American trading partners have waivers to permit continued imports of Iranian crude, and a small number of other buyers will likely attempt to evade the sanctions regime, a subset of NITC's vessels will likely have cargoes and commercial voyages for the foreseeable future. 

Source: Maritime Executive