Iranian ships take on new identities
Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), Iran’s state shipping company, has undertaken a large-scale program to give its ships new identities in order to avoid U.S. sanctions, the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, an anti-proliferation group, said last week.
It said the changes may make it more difficult for U.S. companies to comply with the U.S. sanctions.
In September 2008, the United States blacklisted IRISL saying it was providing logistical services to Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics.
“Not only does IRISL facilitate the transport of cargo for U.N. designated proliferators, it also falsifies documents and uses deceptive schemes to shroud its involvement in illicit commerce,” said Stuart Levey, under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, at the time.
The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which is responsible for enforcing the ban, published the names and unique International Maritime Organization numbers of IRISL’s 123 vessels, and instructed U.S. banks to reject any funds transfer referencing the name of a banned ship. Freight forwarders and shippers were also forbidden from chartering, booking cargo on, or otherwise dealing with the blacklisted vessels.
Wisconsin Project said “IRISL responded to Treasury's action with a wholesale — and ongoing — renaming of its ships. The response has often included dropping 'Iran' from ship names. Iran Brave, for example, has become Margrave, Iran Dolphin has become Alameda, and Iran Matin has become Abba, to name just a few. In all, at least 80 vessels have been renamed so far; 40 of these had the word 'Iran' in their names before the change, and all 40 emerged without it.”
The company also transferred nominal ownership of the ships to shell companies, mainly in Malta, Germany and Hong Kong. Management of many vessels was transferred from the company to 'Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA,' based in Tehran, which Wisconsin Project said now manages more than half of the sanctioned vessels.
“The combined effect of all these changes has been to make it harder for honest companies to comply with U.S. sanctions. Whereas running a compliance check on a transaction involving one of these ships in late 2008 would have raised several red flags, changes made by IRISL since then mean that the same transaction today would probably appear clean. Only each ship's unique IMO number is unchanged. But these numbers do not always appear on cargo documents, such as letters of credit. So, any U.S. company that screens a vessel against Treasury's sanctions list without checking the IMO number is at risk of taking part in an illegal transaction,” Wisconsin Project said.