U.S. Unleashes Wave of Tanker Sanctions Citing Iranian Nuclear Escalation

U.S. targeted 10 tankers and a tug managed by three companies in the UAE supporting the oil trade (file photo)

Published Jun 28, 2024 11:00 AM by The Maritime Executive


The United States announced a sweeping effort sanctioning a total of 11 vessels and three shipping companies based in the UAE all involved in the oil trade and raising monies for Iran. Announcing the moves, the U.S. cited Iran’s recent steps to further expand its nuclear program while vowing to never let Iran obtain a nuclear weapon.

The announcement cited Iran’s continued failure to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and increased rhetoric coming from Iran in advance of its current elections. They reiterated the recent call from the G7 leaders that Iran must cease its escalations of its nuclear program and other destabilizing actions.

“In response to these continued nuclear escalations, the United States is today taking action against entities and vessels involved in the Iranian petroleum and petrochemical trade,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “The Department of State is imposing sanctions on three entities involved in the transport of Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products and identifying 11 vessels associated with these entities as blocked property.”

Specifically, they cited three companies, Al Anchor Ship Management, Almanac Ship Management, and Sea Route Ship Management, all based in the UAE. The U.S. contends the firms have been using their tankers since at least 2021 to transport Iranian oil. All the vessels listed were directly linked to three companies.

The vessels are a wide-reaching group including two crude oil tankers as well as eight smaller product tankers ranging between 1,800 and 9,000 dwt as well as larger 20,000 to 68,000 dwt tankers. The registries varied from the Cook Islands, Gabon, Barbados, and St. Kitts and Nevis, as well as two vessels registered in Panama. Earlier this year, U.S. officials met with Panama in an effort to have vessels violating the sanctions delisted from the registry.

Yesterday’s sanctions also included a tugboat. The Harmony registered in Comoros is a 40-year-old vessel and its last AIS signal showed it in Pakistan. 

These moves came just days after the U.S. Treasury announced it was sanctioning nearly 50 entities and individuals which they said made up “a sprawling shadow banking network” used to gain illicit access to the international financial system and process the equivalent of billions of dollars since 2020. They cited commercial revenue-generating activities, most notably the sale of Iranian oil and petrochemicals.

All these steps came as Iran is set to stage elections today, June 28, to succeed President Ebrahim Raisi who served as president since 2021 and died in a helicopter crash a few weeks ago.