US Treasury Sanctions Tanker and Omani Businesses in Iranian Oil Trade

US sanctions VLCC tanker and Omani businesses
(file photo)

Published Aug 15, 2021 1:16 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) continues its efforts to target Iran’s oil operations and the companies that are working with Iran in the smuggling of oil against international sanctions. The designation of an Omani businessman, a VLCC tanker he owns, and several companies comes despite political accusations in Washington D.C. that the Biden administration was weakening American’s stance against Iran to win a new nuclear agreement.

Treasury’s action targets a foreign broker, Omani national Mahmood Rashid Amur Al Habsi, who the U.S. contends has partnered with senior officials of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force and used several companies to facilitate shipments of Iranian oil to foreign customers, including buyers in East Asia. 

“The IRGC-QF is using revenues from its Iranian petroleum sales to fund its malign activities at the expense of the Iranian people,” said Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control Andrea M. Gacki.  “These sales rely on key foreign intermediaries to obscure the IRGC-QF’s involvement, and Treasury will continue to disrupt and expose anyone supporting these efforts.”

The broker and his businesses have facilitated the sale and shipment of Iranian oil to obscure the IRGC-QF’s involvement OFAC said in detailing the actions.  Al Habsi’s companies they reported have transported shipments worth tens of millions of dollars while working with senior IRGC-QF officials who have previously been designated by OFAC. Al Habsi reportedly managed a vast network of individuals, shipping and oil companies, and vessels to sell Iranian petroleum products for the group’s benefit.  

As part of the oversight of shipping operations, Al Habsi is alleged to have tampered with the AIS systems that are onboard vessels, forged shipping documents, and paid bribes, circumventing restrictions related to Iran.  As a result, the U.S. action designated Bravery Maritime Corporation, a Liberian-registered company, for being owned, controlled, or directed by, directly or indirectly, Al Habsi.  

The Liberian-flagged crude oil tanker Oman Pride, which has been used to transport Iranian oil, is being identified as property in which Bravery Maritime Corporation has an interest and blacklisted as part of OFAC’s actions. The 300,000 dwt crude oil tanker is reported to be idle in an anchorage in Oman since last fall.

OFAC also reports that Al Habsi used his Oman-based companies Nimr International and Orbit Petrochemicals Trading to facilitate the sale and shipment of Iranian oil with both companies being added to the “Specially Designated Nationals” list. They also added a Romania-based company Nimr International which is reported to be controlled by Al Habsi and used in the oil trade.

The action is largely for show to demonstrate that the U.S. intends to maintain the pressure of sanctions again Iran and anyone working with the regime. U.S. citizens and companies as well as foreign institutions are prohibited from engaging in transactions with the designated persons or their blocked property. However, the U.S. has recently used the sanctions and the courts to seize assets, and specifically oil shipments, linked to designated companies.