Amid an ongoing diplomatic tension globally, Panama said it will withdraw its flag from vessels that violate sanctions and international legislation, the Panama Maritime Authority told Reuters. This comes following removal of about 60 ships linked to Iran and Syria from the Panamanian registry in recent months.
The announcement comes by Rafael Cigarruista, general director of Merchant Marine from Panama’s Maritime Authority, in light of the recent de-listing of the supertanker ‘Grace 1’, over suspected breach of EU sanctions.
In early July, the Grace 1 was transiting Gibraltar, fully loaded with crude oil, when it was seized by British Royal Marines on suspicion of heading for Syria’s Banyas refinery, therefore violating EU sanctions against Syria.
The vessel arrived in Gibraltar showing the Panama name at its hull, but the Panamanian government later clarified it had been removed from its registry on 29 May.
Meanwhile, reports say three Iranian vessels on Thursday tried to block a British-owned vessel passing through the Strait of Hormuz.
In this regard, Mr. Cigarruista noted that Panama’s Maritime Authority will maintain its flag withdrawal policy, in a bid to improve compliance and maritime security among its fleet.
After the re-imposition of sanctions on Iran by Washington in 2018, Panama’s former president Juan Carlos Varela gave the green light to remove a fleet of 59 tankers from the country’s registry, according to two sources close to the decision.
Most of these vessels were owned by Iranian state-run companies but they also included ships linked to oil deliveries to Syria, the sources added.
Panama is the largest shipping registry the world with almost 7,100 vessels registered, according to VesselsValue.