Iran mulls IMO appeal over "unfair sanctions"
SANCTIONS targeting Iran"s shipping industry are unjustifiably restricting trade and contravene legal principles established by the International Maritime Organization, a senior Iranian representative to the United Nations.
According to Ali Akbar Marzban, the deputy permanent representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to IMO, discriminatory US sanctions against Iranian shipping companies are in direct contravention of the founding IMO convention which seeks to remove ?unnecessary restrictions by Governments affecting shipping engaged in international trade?.
With the possibility of further targeted sanctions being openly discussed by the US administration after President Obama directly referenced ?consequences? for Iran in his State of the Union address on Wednesday, Tehran is now considering a formal appeal to the IMO for assistance in dealing with the increasingly restrictive sanctions.
?We believe that the sanctions against shipping are unfair because [Iranian shipping companies] are engaging in peaceful, commercial activities and have nothing to do with the nuclear energy dispute,? said Mr Marzban. ?It is just an excuse.?
While Tehran has not yet made a formal complaint to the IMO, Mr Marzban confirmed that senior figures within the Iran administration were considering an approach to the UN agency in the hope that it could mediate on its behalf.
The IMO is a predominantly technical agency of the UN, however Mr Marzban believes that the organisation"s founding convention does contain a remit to intervene on cases of unfair treatment between its member states.
Both the US and UK governments have imposed specific sanctions forbidding business dealings with some Iranian shipping companies on the grounds that they transported goods for both Iran"s ballistic missile and nuclear programmes.
According to Mr Marzban these allegations are unfounded and the sanctions unjustified.
?Carrying prohibited arms or nuclear power-related equipment was just an excuse in order to prevent Iran"s shipping industry from peacefully serving international trade and we reserve the right to bring this matter before the IMO,? he said.
Outside of the wider political dispute over Iran"s intentions regarding the development of a nuclear programme, the country"s status within the IMO as a technically adept maritime administration has never been higher. A decade of investment and political prioritising of its maritime industry has seen Iran leap through the ranks within the IMO to become one of its most active participants over recent years.
Although Iran narrowly missed out on a seat on the IMO"s prestigious council late last year, the country now holds a respected position within the agency and will be keen to avoid letting the international dispute over atomic energy distract from its continued evolution as a regional maritime powerhouse.
However, despite Mr Marzban"s stated hope that IMO intervention will not be necessary, the issue of sanctions against shipping appears unlikely to disappear in the short term.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the Obama administration will this week introduce a paper to the permanent UN Security Council members and Germany outlining Iranian individuals and firms to be targeted in a new sanctions regime.
The US paper will mark an escalation of Washington"s financial campaign against Iran for its defiance of international demands for a halt to its nuclear program.
As revealed earlier this week Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines is already at risk of losing P&I cover for the second time in four months, following Bermuda"s decision to take a lead from the UK in banning financial firms from doing business with the Iranian company.
In March last year, Lloyd"s List revealed that IRISL had changed the names of more than 40 of its vessels since US sanctions kicked and it now appears that IRISL has renamed some vessels several times and re-registered several ships offshore.
Other recent reactions from the company since the sanctions were imposed include third party private companies being formed by IRISL personnel to operate ex-IRISL bulk vessels. Other new third party private companies have also been established to run ex-IRISL box ships and provide technical ship management services. In each of these cases IRISL personnel are understood to be involved.