News / Asia

Hong Kong Shipping Under Scrutiny for Iran Links

The container vessel "IRAN PIROOZI" anchors at the quay of Aker MTW Shipyard in Wismar, northern Germany, after namegiving ceremony ( 2003 file photo).
The container vessel "IRAN PIROOZI" anchors at the quay of Aker MTW Shipyard in Wismar, northern Germany, after namegiving ceremony ( 2003 file photo).
TEXT SIZE - +
Ivan Broadhead

In the past year the United Nations has tried to tighten restrictions on an Iranian shipping company accused of helping Tehran gather materials for its nuclear program. Security Council Resolution 1929 has helped locate ships operating under the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) and turn them away from ports in Europe and North America.  The measure has been much less effective in Asia.

Last week, David S. Cohen, U.S. Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, again warned the Asian shipping industry that conducting business with the IRISL contravenes international law.

Meeting industry representatives in Hong Kong, Cohen named 19 ships that he says the Iranian company renamed and transferred ownership to local shell companies to conceal their identity.

Deceptive practices

Claudia Rosett is with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies - an institute financed by private donors and the U.S. government that studies terrorism.  She has investigated the Iranian company’s sanctions-thwarting methods by using records in the Hong Kong Marine Department.

"You start to see what is really an amazing global network of shell companies, deceptive practices and so on, with which Iran has been trying to get around sanctions on its commercial shipping," she said.

Rosett says one former IRISL ship now registered to a Hong Kong shell company has even been renamed The Alias.

US warning

The U.S. Treasury department warns that any organization found trading with IRISL - even one of its covertly registered entities - would be considered to be helping thwart the United Nations sanctions.

However, Hong Kong marine industry representatives say they do not have the resources adequately to police one of the world’s busiest ports, through which almost half a million ships and 268 million tons of cargo pass each year.

Industry representatives say they need extra intelligence to keep IRISL out of Hong Kong and to prevent their business being unfairly tarnished.

Arthur Bowring is managing director of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association, which includes insurers, fuelling companies, port authorities and other marine services providers.

"A lot of the information is very vague," he said. "It’s a minefield for operators; a lawyer’s paradise in many ways."

Capabilities

Bowring says the industry is committed to upholding sanctions against Iran, which were incorporated into Hong Kong law this June. But he adds that his members are not intelligence experts and yet are being asked by Washington to second-guess which, if any, companies might be a front for IRISL.   

"It makes life extremely difficult for ship owners, who don’t want to trade with Iran, aren’t trading with Iran.  Yet they are caught up with the associated link," he says.

Bowring admits that shippers are nervous of falling foul of the U.S. Treasury, a view with which Rosett sympathizes.

"My guess would be it’s not the intention of the U.S. government to scare people, but to point out that Iran is exploiting the services of Hong Kong’s terrific, vibrant business community... The problem really lies with Iran," said Rosett.

Cohen also met with China’s four largest state banks and warned them they could be sanctioned should they do business with Iranian financial institutions with ties to Iran’s nuclear program.  A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman later said none of China’s business with Iran violates U.N. resolutions.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid