Panama must refrain from flagging Iranian ships

Authorities of the Department of the Treasury of the United States met yesterday with representatives of the Panama Maritime Authority, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the lawyers’ association.

Panama asked its consuls, located in different diplomatic representations in the world, not to receive any payment for taxes and fees from the vessels coming from or from companies of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

On January 29, the Merchant Marine Directorate of the Panama Maritime Authority (PMA) sent a note to the consulates and embassies, in which it announced that the measure seeks to avoid procedures involving any collection of Iranian ships.

There are 60 vessels from Iran that entered the Panamanian registry, following the lifting in 2016 of the economic restrictions imposed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC, by its acronym in English) of the US Department of the Treasury.

However, the blockade of Iran by the Treasury Department was reintroduced in November 2018.

The United States accused Tehran of secretly developing a nuclear program, and from that moment sanctions were put into effect to increase pressure and economic isolation, restricting financial, shipping and oil operations.

That said, the country could be sanctioned by OFAC by keeping Iranian ships with the Panamanian flag.

This newspaper was able to confirm that authorities of the Treasury Department of the United States and of the US Embassy in Panama met yesterday with the AMP, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Panamanian Association of Maritime Law.

The authorities of the United States requested to exclude from the Panamanian registry vessels with Iranian interests, “because they are linked to operations of terrorist acts,” said one source.

The Iranian ships that are flagged in the Panama registry are mostly tankers and would be expelled to prevent the country from being included in a Treasury blacklist.

In this list, the agency lists suspects of terrorism, money laundering or drug trafficking who are prevented from having any relationship with the United States.

The representatives of the Treasury Department expressed to the Panamanian authorities the interest in continuing to support best practices and to prevent the fleet from being used to commit acts of terrorism in the world.

The Panamanian registry is the largest in the world, with more than 8 thousand vessels and 217 million gross registered tons until June of last year.