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Update: Despite Sanctions, Iran Cargo Ships Still Operating in EU

By MarEx 2012-02-15 12:38:31

As stricter sanctions from the European Union (EU) are pressuring Tehran to abandon its nuclear program, they also threaten to force Iran’s flagship cargo shipping line out of Europe. Past efforts have failed to accomplish this task.

The Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) carry about one third of the nation’s dry bulk and container seaborne trade. They are also no stranger to EU sanctions, as they faced a similar situation in 2010 for an alleged role in smuggling banned weapons. However, since then, 23 ships have managed to visit 12 ports throughout the EU almost 150 times, according to a Reuters special report. These occurrences include 96 trips to Malta, 14 to Antwerp, and 10 to Rotterdam.

Two EU countries still provide the majority of the firm’s fleet with flags of convenience. Malta flags 48 of the vessels, and Cyprus do so with 12 out of the 144 total IRISL ships. However, officials from both countries specify that they are in the process of de-registering all of Iran’s sanctioned fleet, and are reviewing all shipping services contracts. Under the EU sanctions, IRISL assets were frozen and commercial transactions banned, but existing contracts are to be honored.

Cyprus’s Department of Merchant Shipping has already let their international safety certificates to expire this month, making it difficult for Cypriot-registered vessels to continue operations.

The IRISL frequently changes the official registered owners, flags, and ship names in an effort to mask the connection to the firm. Members of the maritime community are recognizing these attempts to cover ownership and specific whereabouts and movements.

Before any of these new sanctions were imposed, the fleet made at least 345 changes.  Since the sanctions have went into effect about 878 changes have been made to the fleet in regards to ship names, operating flags, registered owners, managers, and operators.

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