Watchdog releases list of 78 renamed Iran ships
A watchdog run under the auspices of the University of Wisconsin has released a list of 78 Iranian ships said to have assumed new identities in an apparent bid to sidestep US sanctions imposed in September 2008.
Parties doing business with these ships, now registered in places such as Hong Kong, Malta and Germany, are at risk of ?taking part in an illegal transaction?, even if ignorant of the sanction, the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control said in a communiqué.
The communiqué appears equally aimed at the State Department and the Treasury Department"s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which released the International Maritime Organization numbers and other identifying details of 123 ships when Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and 18 affiliates were blacklisted in 2008.
US authorities had promised to update the list to provide for counter-moves but this has not been done, the Wisconsin Project said.
?The US blacklist has not kept up with the large-scale re-labelling of ships, so it is being circumvented by Iran with relatively little effort,? the communiqué stated.
Under the sanctions, US banks were asked to reject funds transfers involving any of the 123 ships. Freight forwarders and shippers were forbidden from chartering, booking cargo on, or otherwise dealing with the vessels.
At least 80 of these vessels were renamed as of March 17, the watchdog said.
IRISL has transferred their nominal ownership to shell companies, mainly in Malta, Germany, and Hong Kong, places where IRISL already has operations thus making it easier to start ?new front companies?.
To further distance itself from the vessels, IRISL is said to have transferred shipmanagement on ?more than half? the sanctioned fleet to Tehran-based Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA.
The statement added: ?The combined effect of all these changes is to make it harder for honest companies to comply with US sanctions. A compliance check on a transaction involving one of these ships in late 2008 would have raised several red flags, but changes since then mean that the same transaction today would probably appear clean.
?Only each ship"s IMO number is unchanged. But these numbers do not always appear on cargo documents, such as letters of credit. So any US 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 research associate Matthew Godsey said: ?We hope OFAC adds the new names to the blacklist as soon as possible, to make the sanctions as effective as they can be.?
OFAC could not be contacted by press time.