ICYMI: Closing Gaps In U.S. Sanctions Essential To Stopping Iran’s “Ghost Armada”

(New York, N.Y.) — This week, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI)’s Research Director Daniel Roth and Chief of Staff Claire Jungman published an op-ed in The Hill warning that gaps in U.S. sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran is enabling the Iranian regime to sell or barter and transport oil to countries such as Venezuela and China. The regime, through a “ghost armada” of rogue vessels, has masterminded a series of tactics to evade sanctions: 

“Sanctions have forced the regime to trade with a few like-minded authoritarian regimes. And crucially, sanctions have forced Iran to go to extraordinary lengths to conceal its illicit shipping commerce: satellite tracking deceptions, doctoring of records, flag- and name-switching, physical camouflage, and a host of other maritime violations.”

In November 2020, UANI identified 70 foreign vessels engaging in these tactics and suspected of involvement in the illicit transfer of Iranian crude oil and/or petroleum products. Just ten months later, the list has doubled to 142. This “ghost armada” – distinct from but complementing Iran’s own National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) fleet – has skirted U.S. sanctions and exploited regulatory loopholes to ship millions of barrels of Iranian oil. And crucially, the rogue vessels have received indispensable assistance – whether deliberate or unintentional – from the wide world of maritime commerce. More action is needed by authorities, Roth and Jungman argue, to stop this illicit trade: 

“As a first step, we recommend the Treasury Department broaden the scope of sanctions-triggering activities that constitute “significant support” to Iran’s shipping sector. The U.S. should punish bunkering specialists, port authorities, importing agents, management firms, charterers, operators, marine insurers, classification societies and all other “maritime services providers” involved with Iran. The Treasury also should expand and delineate the range of sanctionable maritime services and work to identify and target any Venezuelan or Chinese firms complicit in smuggling.”

To read Daniel Roth and Claire Jungman’s op-ed in The Hill, please click here. 

To read UANI’s blog post, Stop The Hop II: The Rogue Armada Grows, please click here. 

To read UANI’s Iran Tanker Tracker resource, please click here.