US to other countries: Don't allow Iranian oil tankers

State Department says allowing Iranian oil tankers into territorial waters or ports could be against newly imposed sanctions.

Elad Benari ,

Oil tanker (illustrative)
Oil tanker (illustrative)

The United States on Wednesday warned other countries not to allow Iranian oil tankers into their territorial waters or ports, saying such access may run afoul of recently reimposed US sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

The State Department reminded the global shipping and insurance industries that as part of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure campaign” to get Iran to change its behavior, insuring Iranian tankers will now incur penalties under US sanctions reinstated this week, reported The Associated Press.

Brian Hook, the special US representative for Iran, said that as major insurers withdraw coverage from Iranian vessels, Iran will likely turn to domestic insurance companies that will not be able to cover losses for maritime accidents that could run into the billions of dollars.

“From the Suez Canal to the Strait of Malacca and all choke points in between, Iranian tankers are now a floating liability,” Hook told reporters, according to AP. “Countries, ports and canal operators and private firms should know they will be likely responsible for the costs of an accident involving a self-insured Iranian tanker.”

The US “sincerely hopes” accidents do not occur, he added, but he noted that an Iranian tanker was involved in an accident in the East China Sea in January that resulted in the loss of the ship and a massive oil spill. He said the US has evidence that Iranian vessels are trying to evade US sanctions by disabling location transponders used to prevent collisions.

On Monday, the latest US sanctions against Iran came into effect, the second round of sanctions since President Donald Trump withdrew in May from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

The second round of sanctions hit oil exports, shipping and banking. Eight temporary waivers to the ban on Iranian oil imports were issued to China, India, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey.

National security adviser John Bolton made clear that the Trump administration is planning to impose even more sanctions on Iran.

"We’re gonna have sanctions that even go beyond this. We’re not simply going to be content with the level of sanctions that existed under Obama in 2015,” Bolton said in an interview with Fox Business Network.

"More are coming," he pledged, adding, "We are actually going to have very strict, very tight enforcement of the sanctions that exist."

Iranian officials blasted the new sanctions. On Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif took to YouTube, posting a message in which he dismissed the new US sanctions and accused Washington of “hostility” against his country.

Last week, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei criticized the US sanctions.

"The world opposes any decision made by Trump. America's goal to reestablish its control failed, and America was defeated by the Islamic Republic among the 40-year-old," he said.