Papers lodged with European Court of Justice claim companies are being unfairly connected with nuclear proliferation
EUROPEAN Union sanctions targeting Iranian shipping companies are set to be challenged in the European Courts of Justice.
The Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, together with a group of 19 shipping companies affected by the sanctions, are challenging the EU’s actions on the basis that they unfairly and inaccurately connect the companies with illegal nuclear weapon proliferation.
Papers to this effect were lodged on Friday at the Court of Justice of European Communities in Luxembourg.
EU sanctions launched in June against IRISL claimed that the company “has been involved in the shipment of military-related cargo, including proscribed cargo from Iran”. Official EU documentation also named a further 25 companies as legitimate targets for the sanctions, claiming that they were either owned or controlled by IRISL and, therefore, also “engaged in, directly or associated with, or providing support for, Iran’s proliferation sensitive nuclear activities”.
Both IRISL and the 19 companies involved inthe action deny the basis on which the sanctions have been made.
Under the EU sanctions regulations, the companies are subject to an EU-wide freeze of their assets. This means that they are unable to trade or carry out business within the EU, and are not able to obtain P&I cover or insurance and reinsurance for hull or machinery from any European company.
Solicitors acting on behalf of IRISL and the 19 companies taking action claim the allegations that the named companies support, or are in someway connected with nuclear proliferation, are damaging to their business interests.
The companies have declared that they are independent shipowners and ship agents and that their activities have nothing to do with Iran’s nuclear proliferation activities.
The legal challenge will attempt to prove this in court. It will also highlight the fact that the reasons given to the companies for their inclusion on the list are vague.
According to Maryam Taher, the solicitor acting for IRISL and the 19 companies involved in the action, the rationale behind the sanctions has not been clearly explained. “We are arguing that none of these companies has been given proper reasons for their inclusion,” she said.
As well as IRISL, other companies involved in the legal challenge include Bushehr Shipping Co (Tehran), CISCO shipping company (also known as IRISL Korea), Irinvestship, IRISL Club, IRISL Marine Services and Engineering Co, ISI Maritime, Leadmarine (also IRISL Asia), Marble Shipping, Shipping Computer Services Co, South Way Shipping Agency and Valfajr 8thShipping Line. The EU imposed sanctions on Iran in July but they have already impacted on IRISL’s shipping operations.
Two IRISL ships, the 15,670 gt Garland and the 16,694 gt Lavender, were arrested in Antwerp last month where their cargoes of steel were found to have water damage. EU banks have been unwilling to accept guarantees from IRISL’s Iranian P&I club.
In a further illustration of the complexity of sanctions issue, the salvage industry was told last month that it should seek a specific exemption from sanctions on Iran. As an emergency response industry, salvors may easily find themselves in aniniquitous position because of the need for speed, the industry has been advised.