Vessels wait to cross through the Panama Canal, on the outskirts of Panama City, Panama December 17, 2023.

Panama Denies Iranian-Owned Ships In Registry Amid US Concerns

Tuesday, 03/19/2024

Panama's maritime authority dismissed claims by the United States that it has Iranian-owned vessels in its registry after a recent request urging Panama to prohibit sanctioned Iranian ships from flying its flag.

Abram Paley, a special envoy from the US State Department, said last week, "Our aim is to prevent ships from supporting groups designated as Iranian terrorist organizations through illegal oil sales".

As the leading global ship registry boasting over 8,000 vessels flying its flag, Panama offers what is commonly termed 'flags of convenience'. The practice permits ship owners to register their vessels in foreign countries for a fee, avoiding scrutiny and regulatory oversight.

Panama's maritime authority disclosed in January 2023 that it had delisted 136 vessels associated with Iran's state oil company over the previous four years.

The US government says that Iran channels revenues from oil sales to finance various groups including Yemen's Houthi rebels, as well as organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas. 

Experts highlight that the utilization of flags of convenience facilitates evasion of environmental regulations, labor standards, and ownership transparency within the maritime industry.

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