Trump Administration Announces New Sanctions on Iranian Shipping

The Iranian product tanker Forest arrives in Venezuela with a cargo of gasoline, 2020 (file image)

Published Oct 26, 2020 8:22 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Monday, the Trump administration announced new sanctions on Iran's state-owned oil and shipping companies, doubling down on its existing measures in the final days before the U.S. presidential election. 

Since 2018, the U.S. has prohibited any transaction with Iran's oil, shipping and ports industries, regardless of the nationality of the counterparty. The sanctions measures implemented Monday specifically sanction the Iranian government entities that constitute Iran's oil and oil shipping industries - the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and its shipping subsidiary, the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC). The measure places these firms and some of their top executives on U.S. Treasury's Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list.

According to Treasury, senior NIOC and NITC personnel have worked closely with Rostam Ghasemi, a senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - Quds Force official and former minister of petroleum who was added to the SDN list last year. Treasury asserts that Ghasemi has facilitated shipments of oil and petroleum products for the financial benefit of the IRGC-QF, which is both a branch of the Iranian military and a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization. NITC Managing Director Nasrollah Sardashti also allegedly worked with the Lebanese terrorist organization Hizballah on the logistics and pricing for oil shipments to Syria

“The regime in Iran uses the petroleum sector to fund the destabilizing activities of the IRGC-QF,” said Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “The Iranian regime continues to prioritize its support for terrorist entities and its nuclear program over the needs of the Iranian people.”

Two UAE-based entities, Atlantic Ship Management Company and Atlas Ship Management, were also added to the list for allegedly serving as front companies for NITC. 

In addition, Treasury targeted several related entities for allegedly facilitating Iranian fuel shipments to U.S.-sanctioned Venezuela. According to the agency, Iranian national Mahmoud Madanipour and UAE-based Mobin International Limited helped arrange for cargoes of NIOC-produced gasoline to be shipped to Venezuelan state petroleum company PDVSA. The services rendered included chartering multiple tankers, according to the statement. Treasury is also targeting two UK-based companies associated with Madanipour, Mobin Holding Limited and Oman Fuel Trading Ltd. 

Two tankers allegedly affiliated with NITC, the Longbow Lake (ex name Gulf Falcon) and the Wu Xian, have also been added to the SDN list. 

The sanctions designations for NIOC and NITC do not have an additional immediate effect, as Iran's oil and shipping industries are already fully sanctioned. However, several analysts told the Wall Street Journal that the designations solidify the administration's hard line on Iranian petroleum exports, making it harder for any future administration to reverse course after the upcoming U.S. presidential election.