A British Navy patrol vessel guards the oil supertanker Grace 1 in Gibraltar territorial waters. (Reuters)

July 13, 2019

Panama will withdraw its flag from more vessels that violate sanctions and international legislation, the country’s maritime authority told Reuters, following the removal of about 60 ships linked to Iran and Syria from the Panamanian registry in recent months.

After the re-imposition of sanctions on Iran by Washington in 2018, Panama’s former president Juan Carlos Varela gave the green light to remove a fleet of 59 tankers from the country’s registry, according to two sources close to the decision.

Most of those vessels were owned by Iranian state-run companies but they also included ships linked to oil deliveries to Syria, the sources added.

A separate supertanker, the Grace 1, made its way to Gibraltar in early July, where it was seized by British Royal Marines on suspicion of violating sanctions against Syria.

The vessel was fully loaded with crude suspected to be bound for Syria’s Banyas refinery, Gibraltar authorities said.

The vessel arrived in Gibraltar showing the Panama name at its hull, but the Panamanian government later clarified it had been removed from its registry on May 29.

“Panama will maintain its flag withdrawal policy,” Rafael Cigarruista, general director of Merchant Marine from Panama’s Maritime Authority, told Reuters in an emailed statement.

“Our intention is to improve our fleet’s percentage of compliance, not only regarding sanctions by international organizations, but also Panama’s current legislation and maritime security rules,” he added.

As the United States seeks to increase pressure on Iran, Panama says it is trying to maintain its registry clean from sanctioned ships and companies involved in wrongdoing.

Panama has the largest shipping fleet in the world with almost 7,100 vessels registered, according to specialized firm Vessels Value.

Asharq Al-Awsat

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Track Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.