U.S. to Warn Shippers Against Storing Iranian Oil- State Dept Official

WASHINGTON, March 9 (Reuters) – The Trump administration will soon issue advisories warning shippers, port officials and insurance companies against the practice of storing Iranian oil and avoiding U.S. sanctions on Iran, a senior State Department official said on Monday.

“We will target and designate anybody that stores Iranian oil, petrochemicals or refined petroleum in violation of U.S. sanctions, no matter where they are,” said David Peyman, the deputy assistant secretary of state for counter threat finance and sanctions.

Peyman also said the United States will encourage ship captains to take photos, and submit them to the U.S. government, of anyone conducting ship-to-ship transfers in case those transfers involve sanctioned oil. In addition, he said the advisories will warn shipping vessels against turning off tracking devices in an effort to avoid U.S. sanctions on Iran.

“Transponders that provide the location of vessels should never be turned off. If they are, that presents a risk that requires heightened diligence,” Peyman told the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think thank that supports tough sanctions on Iran.

The International Maritime Organization requires vessels to use transponders for safety and transparency. Crews can turn off the devices if there is a danger of piracy or similar hazards. But transponders are often shut off to conceal a ship’s location during illicit activities.

The Trump administration pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and soon after unilaterally re-imposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic’s oil exports, saying it wants to bring the shipments down to zero. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Despite the sanctions, China still imports Iranian oil. The Trump administration imposed sanctions on Sept. 25 last year on units of Chinese shipper COSCO for transporting the blacklisted crude.

The Trump administration has been warning Chinese shipping companies since at least October about turning off transponders in attempt to hide shipments of Iranian oil.

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(Reporting by Timothy Gardner and Daphne Psaledakis Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Marguerita Choy)