New US sanctions target Tanzania

25Feb 2018
The Guardian Reporter
Guardian On Sunday
New US sanctions target Tanzania

NEW measures announced by the United States to block supplies and money from going to the North Korean regime to develop nuclear arms, will now specifically target at least one Tanzanian-flagged

ship that Pyongyang has allegedly been using to evade international sanctions, the US government said yesterday.

The US Treasury has issued sanctions against 28 vessels, 27 companies and one individual across nine jurisdictions, including China, Singapore and Tanzania. 

Officials said those sanctioned had exported coal from North Korea or made ship-to-ship transfers in violation of existing UN Security Council sanctions and often via deception. 

Among the 28 vessels slapped with the new US sanctions is a Tanzanian-flagged cargo ship, Dong Feng 6, which has International Maritime Organization (IMO) ship identification number IMO: 9008201.

According to international maritime data seen by The Guardian on Sunday, the Dong Feng 6 vessel is a general cargo ship built in 1993 and currently sailing under the flag of Tanzania. 

The ship has a 113-metre overall length and a gross tonnage of 4,860 tonnes. 

The US believes that North Korea has been using ships registered in Tanzania and elsewhere to camouflage its movements and skirt international sanctions.

The Trump administration "is aggressively targeting all illicit avenues used by North Korea to evade sanctions," US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

If companies or individuals anywhere in the world "choose to help fund North Korea's nuclear ambitions, they will not do business with the United States," he added.

North Korea is already subject to dozens of sanctions both from the US and the United Nations and other world powers, all aimed at halting President Kim Jong Un's development of nuclear weapons. 

The penalties have failed, however, to stop North Korea from making progress toward its stated goal of developing a nuclear-armed ballistic missile capable of hitting US territory.

Satellite imagery purportedly show North Korean vessels conducting ship-to-ship transfers of oil, coal and refined petroleum products with vessels under foreign flags, to circumvent UN sanctions prohibiting such practices.

Shutting down these ships, Mnuchin said, "will significantly hinder the Kim regime's capacity to conduct evasive maritime activities that facilitate illicit coal and fuel transports, and erode its abilities to ship goods through international waters."

President John Magufuli last month put a temporary ban on the registration of foreign ships in the country and ordered over 400 vessels to be investigated for allegations of involvement in criminal activity. 

“I want you to conduct a thorough investigation to vet all the 470 ships that fly the Tanzanian flag,” Magufuli told security forces.  “We cannot allow the image of our country to continue being undermined by some people for their own interests.”

Magufuli said the ban on the registration of foreign ships would be in force until the system of reflagging vessels was overhauled. 

The ban came after at least five foreign-owned ships flying Tanzania’s flag were seized in various parts of the world carrying illegal consignments of weapons and narcotics.

The Zanzibar Maritime Authority (ZMA) has in previous years been accused of allowing Iranian and North Korean vessels to use the Tanzanian flag to violate UN sanctions.

The Tanzanian government said in 2012 that a shipping agent based in Dubai, which was appointed by ZMA, had illegally reflagged 36 Iranian oil tankers with the Tanzanian flag without the country’s knowledge and approval and de-registered the vessels after an investigation.

Reflagging ships masks their ownership, which could make it easier for criminal networks and sanctioned nations to obtain insurance and financing for the cargoes, as well as find buyers for the shipments without attracting attention from the UN and other international authorities.