Using a series of legal loopholes, Iran has renamed over a dozen cargo ships in
the past year as it seeks to circumvent sanctions on arms transfers and the
supply of nuclear-related equipment, according to a new study released
The report was published by the Stockholm International Peace
Research Institute (SIPRI) and included an analysis of reported incidents of
illicit arms and drug transfers in recent years.
According to the report,
the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line (IRISL) has renamed a total of 90 out
of its 123 ships since 2008. The company also reflagged a significant percentage
of its fleet, which dropped off the list of the top 100 fleets in the world last
April. It previously was ranked as the 23rdlargest container line in the
Israel has captured a number of Iranian arms ships transferring
weaponry to terrorists groups in the region in recent years. Last week, The
Jerusalem Post reported on efforts by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz to
recruit EU countries to help counter Iranian smuggling throughout the
Gantz raised the issue with European counterparts he met at NATO
headquarters earlier this month.
In March, navy commandos seized the
Victoria, which was transporting 50 tons of weaponry – including advanced
radar-guided anti-ship missiles – to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The ship was owned
by a German company and was flying a Liberian flag.
In late 2009, the
navy seized the Francop, which was carrying hundreds of tons of weaponry en
route to Hezbollah in Lebanon. It was also owned by a German company and was
flying an Antiguan flag.
“The Iranian ships are being shuffled like a
deck of cards in a Las Vegas casino,” explained Hugh Griffiths, one of the
authors of the report and an arms trafficking expert at SIPRI.
a constant game of cat and mouse being played and the renaming and reflagging of
vessels of different states is a way of trying to avoid inspection because of
The report, Griffiths said, was the culmination of two years
of work by SIPRI during which it created the Vessel and Maritime Incident
Database, which contains information on countries and shipping lines suspected
of illicit activity.
According to the SIPRI report, in October 2010
Germany removed ships suspected of being owned by IRISL from its shipping
registry after the European Union imposed sanctions on the state-owned shipping
The report claims, however, that despite the sanctions, other EU
member states, including Cyprus and Malta, continue to have Iranian ships on