2019 Aug 29

ITF concerned over US threat to deny visas for crews working on vessels carrying Iranian oil

In a recent message from the US State Department to the maritime industry, it informs that it will invoke anti-terrorism legislation to deny seafarers a US visa if they work on board a vessel carrying Iranian oil.

This statement from the US comes after the tanker Grace 1, which has been renamed Adrian Darya, was released by Gibraltarian authorities after the country received assurances that the vessel would not breach EU sanctions.

More specifically, Dave Heindel, ITF seafarers section chair, expressed his frustration at the statement, commenting that: "As a global union federation, we recognise that geopolitical issues and official sanctions are beyond our purview. However, it is also beyond the purview of a seafarer to expect him or her to have any influence over the destination of a vessel or its cargo."

He added that seafarers, whether they are ratings or officers, rarely know where the vessel is bound. Namely, a vessel is ordinarily instructed by the ship management company to sail a certain course with further directions to be given later.

In case a ship is directed to an Iranian port, it is common that the captain will be the only one who knows the destination a day or two before. The crew, and especially ratings and lower-ranking officers, will not know and have no possibility to refuse or disembark the vessel during the voyage.

"It is unjust to blankly refuse visas to seafarers who may have been employed on board a vessel considered in breach of sanctions, and it does not hold the right people responsible. Governments, including the US, should rather direct their focus to the FoC system and change the rules that allow this system and its secretive ownership laws to flourish unimpeded."

Mr. Heindel concludes.

The Strait of Hormuz experienced an increased tension for months now. It first started when the UK arrested the Indian Captain and Chief Officer of the Iranian tanker 'Grace 1', a few days after the ship was seized suspected of breaching EU sanctions by shipping oil to Syria.

Later on, in what is said to be an act of retaliation, Iran seized Stena Impero. Yet, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard seized another foreign vessel, supporting that it was transmitting 700,000 litres of oil to 'some Arab countries in the Persian Gulf.'


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