Iran General NewsIran shipping companies face more sanctions heat

Iran shipping companies face more sanctions heat

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Reuters: The European Union has targeted more Iranian shipping companies as part of moves to tighten sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic.

By Jonathan Saul

LONDON, May 24 (Reuters) – The European Union has targeted more Iranian shipping companies as part of moves to tighten sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic.

EU foreign ministers agreed on Monday to add more than 100 new entities to a list of companies and people affected by EU sanctions, designed to put economic pressure on Tehran to abandon its atomic programme.

Adding further pressure, the United States on Tuesday announced sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA and six other smaller oil and shipping companies for engaging in trade with Iran in violation of a U.S. ban.

The EU move, reflecting mounting frustration over a lack of progress in nuclear talks with Tehran, has added a number of holding companies owned or controlled by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL).

“Iran in general and IRISL and its affiliates in particular face a largely unified front, one that is systematically, if somewhat slowly, closing the loopholes and forcing it to expend scarce resources on ever increasingly complex evasive manoeuvres,” said J. Peter Pham with U.S. think tank the Atlantic Council.

“At some point or another, Iran’s shrinking pool of partners will conclude that the cost of doing business with it is too high.”

IRISL was not immediately able to reply to questions from Reuters.

In recent months IRISL has faced sanctions-related pressure from both the EU and the United States, which have said the shipping line has engaged in illegal activity.

IRISL Chairman Mohammad Hossein Dajmar told news site Jamejam Online last year that sanctions “could not paralyse the shipping line”.

“Our strategy is to deal with this issue. It means we won’t let them to reach their goal,” Dajmar said.

The new EU measures have targeted over 30 IRISL holding companies based in Germany, Malta, Hong Kong and the Isle of Man in the UK. All the companies were listed at the same address in each location, the EU’s Official Journal showed on Tuesday.

Among the shipping companies targeted by the EU were Safiran Payam Darya Shipping Lines, which it said took over IRISL’s bulk services and routes and used vessels previously owned by IRISL.

Companies covered by the U.S. sanctions included Singapore-based Tanker Pacific. It was not clear if any of the new shipping firms targeted by the United States had any connection with IRISL.

SHIP INSURERS

The new EU measures, asset freezes and visa bans add to a range of financial and trade sanctions the EU’s 27 governments have already imposed on Tehran.

Iran said on Tuesday the new round of EU sanctions was contradictory to the blocs stated desire to return to talks.

IRISL was originally designated by the U.S. Treasury in 2008 for alleged involvement in illicit arms shipments.

The Treasury has said the shipping line used deceptive behaviour to try to mask its activities including falsifying shipping documents, changing nominal ownership of its ships and repainting them to hide the fact that they are part of IRISL.

“U.S. and U.N. sanctions encouraged IRISL to become more active than before and play an active role in the international scene,” Ali Ezzati, IRISL’s director of strategic planning and international affairs, said on the company’s website this month.

IRISL said in April the last of five cargo ships seized following sanctions had been released.

IRISL’s blacklisting meant its P&I insurance cover was terminated in 2009 by providers belonging to the International Group of P&I Clubs.

“Following the introduction of legislation in the UK, that cover was terminated and they are no longer covered within the International Group,” Andrew Bardot, executive officer with the International Group of P&I Clubs, told Reuters.

“There is quite a complicated matrix of sanctions legislation and regulation and careful investigation and inquiry is necessary to make sure that the cover provided does not infringe the EU or U.S. regulations.”

World powers suspect Iran is trying to develop atomic weapons under the cover of its declared civilian nuclear energy programme, but Tehran says it needs nuclear power to meet growing domestic demand for electricity.

(Additional reporting by Mitra Amiri in Tehran and Andrew Quinn in Washington; editing by Jason Neely)

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