Bolivia says may de-flag Iranian ships
Bolivia could strike 15 vessels linked to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines off its shipping register just weeks after IRISL found Bolivian replacements for their Maltese and Cypriot flags, Reuters reported.
IRISL, its many subsidiaries and their dozens of ships have drawn sanctions from the United States, United Nations and the European Union for their suspected role in transporting military equipment for Tehran.
Merchant ships need a flag from national ship registries to gain access to most of the world's ports and many fly those of other countries - especially Panama, Liberia, the Bahamas, Malta and Cyprus - to avoid paying taxes in their home countries.
Despite a 2010 UN resolution on dealing with Iranian government front companies, until recently Maltese flags still fluttered at the masts of 48 of 144 IRISL vessels identified by the EU, while Cypriot colors flew above 12.
Malta delisted one Iranian tanker, the M.T.Tour, after reports the ship had loaded up with sanctioned Syrian crude in late March, and threatened to de-flag others found violating EU rules.
With Malta and Cyprus coming under increased pressure to stop flagging Iranian government-linked ships, there has been a flurry of registrations in the last few months half a world away in landlocked Bolivia by two new front companies.
The head of the Bolivian registry told Reuters the authority was not aware that any of the vessels registered over the last few weeks were Iranian, but if evidence of sanctions-violating vessels emerged, Bolivia would remove them from the list.
Edited by: S. Isayev