London, 8 Nov – The United States has issued a stark warning to the rest of the world: do not allow Iranian oil tankers to enter your territorial waters or dock in your ports or you’ll be risk harsh US penalties and potential “environmental disaster”.
On Wednesday, November 7, the State Department warned global shipping and insurance industries that they would risk being cut off from the US financial system or massive fines if they continued to transport or insure Iranian oil, after sanctions were reinstated on Monday as part of the US’s “maximum pressure campaign” to get Iran to change its behaviour.
This will mean that Iran is unable to use major players to transport its oil and will instead turn to domestic companies, which have less experience and fewer resources. Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, said accidents are more likely to occur and that these companies will not be able to cover billions of dollars of losses.
He said: “From the Suez Canal to the Strait of Malacca and all choke points in between, Iranian tankers are now a floating liability. Countries, ports and canal operators and private firms should know they will be likely responsible for the costs of an accident involving a self-insured Iranian tanker.”
And to make matters worse, Iran is trying to evade US sanctions by disabling location transponders used to prevent collisions, with the goal being that Iran could hide its illicit transport.
Hook said: “This tactic is a maritime security threat. These transponders are designed to maximize visibility at sea and turning them off only increases the risk of accidents and injuries. Self-insured Iranian tankers engaging in unsafe behaviour, with many tons of crude oil on board, [are] courting environmental and financial disaster.”
While no one wants an accident to occur, an Iranian tanker was already involved in a major accident in the East China Sea in January, which resulted in the death of all crewmembers, a massive oil spill, and the loss of the ship.
The sanctions that went into force on Monday target Iran’s energy, financial, and shipping sectors; something that Trump promised when he pulled the US out of the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers.
The aim was to cut off Iran’s oil exports – its main source of income – and cut Iran off from the rest of the world. However, the US has allowed eight countries to continue buying Iranian oil for another six months without penalty.