20/7/2013 Revealed: Iranian ships still flying Tanzania flag Dar es Salaam. Tanzania could find itself in an awkward diplomatic position again following revelations that Iran is now using the country’s national identity to evade sanctions imposed on its oil tankers. Tanzania Flag In Summary Shipping intelligence data indicate that Iranian vessels and other ships blacklisted by the US are using signals assigned to Tanzania. Under this cover, the tankers no longer fly the Tanzanian flag. The Citizen Reporter Dar es Salaam. Tanzania could find itself in an awkward diplomatic position again following revelations that Iran is now using the country’s national identity to evade sanctions imposed on its oil tankers.Shipping intelligence data indicate that Iranian vessels and other ships blacklisted by the US are using signals assigned to Tanzania. Under this cover, the tankers no longer fly the Tanzanian flag.But the ploy has been exposed by their continued use of the signal that identifies Tanzania in international shipping traffic.“They (Iranian ships) now appear as flag “unknown”, but they have continued to identify themselves in shipping traffic as flagged to Tanzania,” noted Ms Claudia Rosett of the US-based Foundation for Defence of Democracies in an article published in Forbes magazine last week. “The tell-tale sign is a nine-digit number known as a Maritime Mobile Service Identity number, or MMSI, part of the on-board signalling system that transmits the registered identity of a ship as well as its location. The MMSI number is unique for each vessel, but the initial three digits identify the ship’s flag state (677 for Tanzania),” explained the ship-tracking data analyst.The revelation comes exactly a year after the government assured the world that it had deregistered the Iranian vessels that were plying international waters fraudulently using its flag.Initially, the authorities vehemently denied that there were Iranian ships registered under the Tanzanian flag. The government conceded only after evidence showed that Iran secured the cover through Zanzibar. The incident triggered mounting international pressure for Tanzania to be penalised.After completing deregistration of the ships last December, the government issued a circular to all its embassies explaining measures it had taken to deal with the matter. The circular was issued by the ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation after the government announced it had joined forces with the European Union (EU) and the Zanzibar government to establish the owners of the Iranian tankers.Yesterday, the permanent secretary in the ministry of Infrastructure, Mr Omar Chambo, said he was not aware of the new turn of events. He said he could not comment on the matter since he was not in the country and advised this paper to follow up the matter with the ministry on Monday.Other government officials in a position to clarify the matter were unavailable for comment. They include ministers Bernard Membe of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Harrison Mwakyembe of Infrastructure.Iran has increasingly found it difficult to avoid the shipping embargo, especially after the tougher US sanctions that took effect on July 1 under the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 (IFCA). The new restrictions are meant to help shut down Iran’s foreign-flagging operations, potentially targeting the provision of registry, flagging and classification services to Iran’s shipping sector.Ms Rosett writes in the July 12 edition of Forbes: “But over the past month, at least 39 Iranian oil tankers have signalled as registered to Tanzania, 34 of them since the beginning of July. That number accounts for well over half the crude carriers of Iran’s main tanker fleet, owned by NITC, formerly known as the National Iranian Tanker Company.”On Thursday, a New York-based watchdog organisation which played a key role in exposing links between Tanzania’s flag and Iran’s tankers said the new scheme also involves Very Large Crude Carriers. United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) officials said in an email to this paper that data they had seen indicated that 32 NITC tankers currently signalling Tanzanian flags delivered over the past few months.“We are particularly concerned with the role that a US-based company, Philtex, seems to be playing in this flagging. As the agent of the Tanzania Zanzibar ship registry, it seems that Philtex is continuously granting Tanzanian flagging rights to the NITC’s newest and most capable super tankers, in violation of US sanctions,” UANI official Nathan Carleton told The Citizen on Sunday.Philtex was contracted by Zanzibar to oversee its ship registration services. After the flagging saga, the authorities said they had terminated the agreement. The Forbes report said the company officials claim Philtex was “still managing the Tanzania Zanzibar shipping registry”.