Home News and Politics Explosive Showdown: ‘Dark’ Fleets and Gaza Trigger Chaos, Turning IMO into a Battleground

Explosive Showdown: ‘Dark’ Fleets and Gaza Trigger Chaos, Turning IMO into a Battleground

Explosive Showdown: ‘Dark’ Fleets and Gaza Trigger Chaos, Turning IMO into a Battleground

Politics and Tensions Mount as Iran’s Opposition to “Dark Shipping” Sparks Controversy at IMO

In a controversial move, Iran is seeking to eliminate references to “dark shipping” within the International Maritime Organization (IMO), highlighting the intersection of politics and ship regulations. This development adds further pressure on the UN’s ship safety body ahead of the upcoming IMO Assembly gathering in December.

The already tense situation in the Middle East, fueled by the recent Hamas attack on Israel and the resulting humanitarian crisis in Gaza, has further intensified concerns. There are apprehensions that Iranian-backed militia groups, or even Iran itself, could be drawn into conflict if an Israeli ground attack in the Gaza Strip occurs.

Tehran believes that international politics played a role in the IMO’s decision to include references to “dark shipping” and “illicit” activities, made during the Marine Environment Protection Committee meeting in April. The issue was raised with a document presented by the US, UK, Ukraine, and others, which highlighted the environmental risks associated with ship-to-ship oil transfers at sea.

In a submission for the December IMO Assembly, Iran asserts its commitment to safe ship-to-ship transfers but argues against the use of “controversial concepts and terms that lack precise and absolute definitions acceptable to all member states or within international law.”

The volume of seaborne cargo transfers has significantly increased due to sanctions imposed on Iran and Russia regarding alleged nuclear violations and the invasion of Ukraine, respectively.

Russia’s Council Position and Accusations of Political Influence

Russia faces a challenge in maintaining its seat on the ruling council of the IMO during the December meeting, coming after 63 years as a member. A document supporting Russia’s re-election contains strong criticism of the West and the US, accusing the IMO of deviating from its impartial role and dedicating excessive attention to political matters that fall outside its mandate.

Out of 175 member states, Russia is one of ten countries on the IMO council and competes against Liberia, a major flag state with historically complex relations with the US.

The issue of sanctions remains contentious in the shipping industry and broader political sphere. Critics argue that such restrictions only strengthen targeted nations and contribute to self-sufficiency, whereas others emphasize the importance of freedom of trade and the beneficial impact of discounted oil prices on countries like India and China.

However, concerns have been raised over the use of aging vessels to transport sanctioned or cut-price cargoes, with companies like Frontline questioning the potential consequences if regulatory measures are implemented to prohibit this practice. In the past, Avance Gas has highlighted the existence of an unmonitored “rogue fleet” involved in transporting sanctioned cargoes from Iran.

Escalating Tensions and Potential Further Restrictions

In April last year, tensions escalated when Iran’s Revolutionary Guard seized two Greek tankers following a Greek court ruling in favor of the US confiscating sanctioned crude from an Iranian aframax tanker. There are growing concerns that Washington may impose additional restrictions on Iran, particularly amid speculation linking Tehran to the recent Hamas attack.

US President Joe Biden’s deployment of two aircraft carriers to the region before his visit to Israel serves as a warning to Iran to maintain distance.

As the IMO Assembly approaches, the inextricable influence of politics on the shipping industry becomes increasingly evident.


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