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).
    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

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    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.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora