Iranian crude oil supertanker "Delvar"_370.
(photo credit: Tim Chong/Reuters)
A Tel Aviv-based civil rights group accused UK satellite operator Inmarsat Plc
over the weekend of admitting it provides its technology to Iranian oil
Shurat HaDin (Israel Law Center) warned Inmarsat last month that
the company could risk civil as well as criminal proceedings in US courts if it
did not stop supplying its guidance services to Iranian military vessels and
Rich Harris, Inmarsat’s senior vice president told Shurat HaDin
that the group’s allegations had no basis, and that Inmarsat is not violating
According to Harris, after the British government privatized
Inmarsat in 1999, the company was obliged to continue its “public service
obligations” to “ensure the continuity of maritime satellite distress and safety
communications services” for the UN’s Global Maritime Distress and Safety
System. Inmarsat was obliged to provide all ships with distress communications
systems “without discrimination on the basis of nationality,” Harris
In response, Shurat HaDin director and civil rights activist
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said that Inmarsat could still be in violation of
sanctions, despite its UN obligations.
“It is undeniably true that the
purpose of the sanctions on Iran is to prevent their ships from sailing. In
other words, withdrawal of the mandatory safety communications services would
effectively prevent Iranian ships setting sail,” she said. “In addition,
US law trumps and voids any contractual or international convention obligations
that may be in conflict with it as well.”
The warning letter came in the
wake of recent US Treasury Department sanctions against Iranian vessels, imposed
The sanctions identify 58 National Iranian Tanker Company
(NITC) vessels by name. The Treasury Department said identifying the vessels
would help companies and individuals comply with sanctions against Iran and
undermine Iranian attempts to use NITC front companies to evade
Twenty-eight of the vessels that the department named appear
on Inmarsat’s shipping directory as being in receipt of the company’s
In a July 26 interview with Space News, Inmarsat spokesman
Christopher McLaughlin had said that “some of these ships [on the Treasury
Department list] nonetheless appear to be using older Inmarsat gear,” while
noting that the company is not informed as to the identity of its customers,
because of its history as an international treaty organization.
interview, McLaughlin said that these were “heritage services” installed before
its distribution partners had to inform it of its customers’ exact
“It is unacceptable for a global company to seek to cover up
its links to Iranian interests or to claim these ties are handled by third party
partners or vendors, which by itself is a violation of US law,” Darshan-Leitner
told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday, vowing to pursue the matter if Inmarsat did
not cease its dealings with Iran.
The developments in the Inmarsat row
came as Iran tried to downplay the effects of oil sanctions on Sunday, citing a
Russian expert who said the Islamic Republic could develop new markets in Africa
Both the Islamic Republic News Agency and Fars News Agency
cited an interview that Russian politician and Middle East expert Semyon
Bagdasarov gave to Russian business daily Kommersant on Saturday, in which he
said the Iran could also ship crude to other countries close to the Persian
The Iranian reports came as India’s state-run oil company Hindustan
Petroleum (HPCL) made its first payment for Iranian crude in rupees on
According to Reuters, who cited an unnamed company source, HPCL
has paid $49.25 million in Indian rupees to Iran through UCO Bank and $60m.
However, as the rupee is a weak currency and not widely
accepted around the world, Iran will not be able to use it to purchase all the
goods it needs.
India is one of several importers of Iranian crude
granted temporary exemptions to US sanctions, however the country has had
difficulty in insuring tankers transporting oil from Teheran after EU sanctions
prevented access to coverage on the UK’s insurance market.
Even as HPCL
continues to ship Iranian crude, Lloyd’s List reported Friday that two of
India’s top shipowners – SCI and Great Eastern – have said they are unwilling to
import crude from Teheran under the country’s $50m. third-party liability cover
from state-owned insurance companies.
According to Bloomberg, crude
shipments from Iran have dropped by 1.2 million barrels per day since US-led
sanctions came into effect on July 1, which will cost Iran about 10 percent of
its economy every year.