US Urges Panama to De-flag Iran Sanction-Evading Tankers

Panamanian flags
Updated Published

The US State Department's Special Envoy for Iran, Abram Paley, urged Panama to withdraw registration from Iranian tanker vessels accused of sidestepping sanctions set by the US.

Paley highlighted that since January, there have been allegations against at least six ships under Panama's flag for transporting Iranian oil, an act that contravenes international sanctions. The proceeds from these sales purportedly support terrorist activities in the region.

"Iran and its affiliated groups are trying to evade sanctions here in Panama, they are trying to abuse the flag registration of ships,” stated Paley.

In a related move, Panama has already removed 6.5 million gross tons of ships from its registry due to links with Iran, North Korea, or sanctions violations.

During his visit to Panama, Paley sought cooperation from local authorities to strip the Panamanian flag from ships not adhering to the sanctions against Tehran.

"We are here in Panama to coordinate with the Panamanian government in our joint effort to ensure that the vessel registry is not abused by entities seeking to evade our sanctions on Iran," Paley announced at a news conference.

This visit by Paley is seen as a follow-up to a formal request by over 20 senators, including leaders Bob Casey (Democrat) and Marco Rubio (Republican). On January 11, they submitted a letter to the HPA's Department of Resolutions and Consultations, Segumar's Panama City office, and shared it with Panama's ambassador in Washington, Ramón Martínez. The letter demanded an investigation into 189 Panamanian-flagged ships suspected of shipping Iranian oil in defiance of US sanctions.

The US is concerned that Iran might be using some of these vessels to sneak oil or oil products past sanctions, potentially funding groups aligned with Iran that the US deems terrorist organizations.