DAKAR - Sierra Leone has removed nine vessels from its shipping register after an investigation found they belonged to IRISL, Iran's embattled shipping line, the head of the West African state's maritime authority said on Saturday.

The move comes as Western powers seek to ground Iran's global oil carrier fleet by urging countries to deny their flags to Iranian ships, part of a broader push to curb Tehran's nuclear program with economic sanctions.

"The vessels were deleted as a result of the fact that the companies that registered the said vessels were actually subsidiaries owned and controlled by IRISL," acting Executive Director of the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration Wurroh Jalloh told Reuters in an email.

He said four vessels - Alva, Amin, Tour and Benita - were removed from the register late last week and that five others had been deleted since the end of August. He did not give further details.

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