Risky Business: Ban On Container Cargoes From Iran By India’s Largest Port Operator Now In Question

(New York, N.Y.) — In October, officials with the Adani Group – the largest ports operator in India – announced its intention to end its support for export and import of container cargoes from Iran and other jurisdictions at any of its 10 ports or terminals, including the country’s largest commercial port. Implementation of that policy, however, is now in question. Adani Group is reportedly under pressure to reassess the situation, and Iranian media outlets report that Indian government authorities have successfully forced the company to lift its ban on Iranian cargo. A reversal, if true, would represent a significant blow to the security of Indian ports, which face the risk of handling cargo contaminated by sanctioned merchandise. There is no other way to protect the ports other than conducting costly and time-consuming physical inspections of each container.

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) first raised its concerns with Adani in 2019 after tracking one vessel transporting sanctioned petrochemical products and another on the SDN list carrying bulk cargo to Adani-operated ports in India. These findings exposed the company to the possibility of being targeted for secondary sanctions and furthered Iran’s malign behavior. Later, at least two Iranian-flagged bulk cargo vessels on the U.S. Treasury Department’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) list, BASKAR and BEHDOKHT, called at Adani-operated ports. Eight other vessels that may have been transporting sanctioned merchandise have been permitted to offload their cargo at Adani-operated ports since December 2020.

The illicit sale of sanctioned merchandise, including oil and petrochemicals routinely exported from Iran to other jurisdictions, supports the Iranian regime financially. Revenues derived from state-owned companies like Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) or Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) front companies, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, into the Iranian economy contribute to Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles program and ongoing state-sponsorship of terrorism 

“Nearly three years ago, UANI began a dialogue with officials representing Adani. We asked the company to deny all docking privileges to any sanctioned vessels. The new policy announced by Adani goes further and will better protect the company from corporate reputational risk, impaired future business opportunities and shareholder value, and U.S. secondary sanctions – but only if the Indian government permits it to act as a responsible business,” said UANI Research Director Daniel Roth. “Adani should clarify its policy publicly. If container cargoes from Iran are blocked from Adani ports, it should consider the next logical step of similarly banning all Iranian-flagged tanker vessels, including chemical tankers, from its terminals. If it has been reversed, the company should be transparent about how and why.”

Using the Automatic Identification System (AIS), satellite imagery, vessel comparison and tanker classification, and cargo datasets, UANI tracks exports of Iranian oil and gas condensates and publishes the data on its Iran Tanker Tracker resource. Furthermore, UANI’s monitoring has exposed the “Ghost Armada” of foreign-flagged vessels aiding Tehran’s illicit export of oil and petrochemicals to its Chinese and Venezuelan allies, and permitted maritime authorities worldwide to take punitive action against rogue vessels. 

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

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