A shipping firm linked to Israeli billionaire Sammy Ofer allegedly docked seven oil tankers at an Iranian island port despite U.S. sanctions, according to an investigation by the Israeli business website Calcalist.
The ships reportedly docked between 2004 and 2010. Last week, the U.S. State Department announced it had imposed sanctions on the Ofer Brothers Group for allegedly selling Iran an oil tanker. Iran and Ofer Brothers have vehemently denied the report.
The latest allegation states that oil tankers docked at Hark, about 25 kilometers off the coast of Iran.
Concerning the alleged sale of a tanker, Chairman of Iran's Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines (ICCIM) Mohammad Nahavandian told Iran’s government-controlled Fars News Agency, “News about activities of Zionist (Israeli) firms in Iran is a new game started in reaction to the willingness of certain countries to establish economic ties with Iran.
“In addition to an illegal ban, Iran regards Zionist firms and their policy makers as the main factors behind economic sanctions and refrains from making any deal with them.”
The sanctions by the United States were announced by the State Department last week, which stated, “We believe that Tanker Pacific and Ofer Brothers Group failed to exercise due diligence and did not heed publicly available and easily obtainable information that would have indicated that they were dealing with IRISL (Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines).”
Oil Tanker Pacific responded that none of its shipping activity in Iran violated international laws.
ABC News reported that Tanker Pacific visited Iran eight times at the same time Israel was pressuring the United States to impose sanctions on Iran, including prohibitions against oil industry-related trade with the Islamic Republic.
Ofer Brothers officials last week said that it had sold an oil tanker to Dubai, and that the ship may have been sold to Iran by Dubai interests.
Tanker Pacific CEO Alastair McGregor issued a statement Sunday saying, “Tanker Pacific Management...considers the announcement by the U.S. State Department…relating to our involvement in the sale of 'mt Raffles Park' to be a harsh assessment of our due diligence process.
“However, in light of this announcement, we have carried out a full investigation of the internal procedures that existed at the time of the sale. It is our intention to use every possible means to ensure such an event will not be repeated. Accordingly, with immediate effect, Tanker Pacific Management (Singapore) Pte Ltd is implementing enhanced compliance procedures, and employing additional resources, to ensure that the company operates a ‘best practice’ due diligence process.
“With regards to the sale of Raffles Park, Tanker Pacific…believes that the searches and enquiries it made at the time of the transaction were appropriate; and gave no indication that the vessel would ultimately fall into Iranian hands.”
Regarding the docking of tankers at Iran, McGregor said, “Over the years, and as a small part of our business, ships operated by Tanker Pacific…have transported oil and petroleum product cargoes from and to various ports in Iran for our customers who are international oil companies, commodity traders and end users. All such activities were fully permitted under international rules and regulations including those emanating from the United States, European Union and the United Nations.
“However, Tanker Pacific Management (Singapore) Pte Ltd decided to cease transporting refined petroleum products into Iran with effect from April 2010, several months before the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act 2010 prohibited these activities with effect from 1 July 2010.
“Furthermore, Tanker Pacific Management (Singapore) Pte Ltd decided in November 2010 to cease loading crude oil at Iranian ports altogether, even though this continues to be a legitimate trade under international rules and regulations and is customarily carried out by international shipping companies for major oil companies.”