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US 'incredibly assertive', compelling all to enforce Iran sanctions: ICS

AMERICANS are 'incredibly assertive', and willing to use every tool at their disposal against Iran, said Simon Bennett, deputy secretary-general of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) after his meeting with US State Department officials last month

01 December 2019 - 19:00

AMERICANS are 'incredibly assertive', and willing to use every tool at their disposal against Iran, said Simon Bennett, deputy secretary-general of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) after his meeting with US State Department officials last month.

'Ultimately, everything in shipping involves being subject to the law and the jurisdiction of the US whether it's reinsurance or payments in US dollars,' said Mr Bennett.



'The US wants to put pressure on third parties to act as policemen which we really think is the job of government and US trading partners,' he said.



'These restrictions on trade are being used as a weapon to promote diplomatic foreign policy objectives. These may be objectives which we might not necessarily agree with?but they leave us with legal options that we can't do anything other than comply,' he said.



The ICS met with the state department to ask for clarity but it suited the US government to 'provide as little clarity as possible', said Mr Bennett.



Unilateral US bans on Iranian shipping, oil and petrochemical exports in place throughout 2019 have placed global shipping at the forefront of geopolitical unrest, reports London's Lloyd's List



London-based maritime lawyer Daniel Martin said that 'phase one' enforcement targeted banks, but scrutiny has extended to other shipping sectors.



The US has entered 'phase two' of its Iran sanctions enforcement programme that involves targeting marine insurers and shipowners, using them to police Iranian shipping and oil exports, a seminar heard.



Insurance companies, including P&I clubs, flag states and other marine service providers are under increased pressure from the US to comply with unilateral sanctions.



'Now regulators are looking to commercial organisations to be the police force,?said Mr Martin.



Sanctions have been widely criticised for their disruption, high cost and inconsistent and unfair application by the panel speaking at the forum. This included the International Chamber of Shipping, Citi Group, The Standard Club and International Registries.



The world's top-three liner companies have collectively employed more than 150 people to stay on top of sanctions compliance, Citi Group head of shipping Shreyas Chipalkatty told the forum.



'The cost of compliance is enormous,' he said, adding that sanctions were used as 'political theatre', citing the recent moves against China's Cosco, the world's largest shipowner.



The Office of Foreign Assets and Control sanctioned two Cosco subsidiaries in September for breaching Iranian sanctions, throwing tanker markets into chaos amid uncertainty regarding which ships were affected.



'India, for example, buys Iranian oil in large quantities and pays rupees which the Iranians use to buy Indian industrial goods, and this is absolutely fine with the State Department,' said Mr Chipalkatty.



'So, I think it's more about making sending messages, it's about political theatre rather than actually achieving something on the ground.'



Iranian oil exports have plunged since the US reimposed sanctions at the end of 2018 and withdrew from a nuclear pact with Iran.


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