JULY 31, 2013 — The latest prominent shipowner to attract the attention of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is Italy's Ignazio Messina & Co. SpA.
According to UANI, Ignazio Messina operates container and roll-on/roll-off services at the port of Bandar Abbas – Iran's largest port through which 90% of its container traffic passes. The Bandar Abbas port is known to be controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
UANI first contacted Ignazio Messina on June 27, 2013, stating that its business activities in Iran created the risk "that its vessels and services may be misused in pursuit of the regime's illicit agenda."
UANI added: "Ignazio Messina's continued business in Iran also likely violates EU sanctions … because any such activity would, at the very least, involve paying loading fees to Iranian port operators."
In a July 2, 2013 response to UANI, Ignazio Messina stated that "Till [D]ecember 2012 the Terminal Operators assisting our vessels were Messrs Faraz Royal Qeshim Co. We confirm that both Iranian Companies [including the new Terminal Operator] are private and neither have any relationships with Messrs Tidewater [Tidewater Middle East Company, a sanctioned Iranian entity that has no connection to offshore services giant Tidewater] nor are among the Iranian Firms shown on the black list."
UANI says "Ignazio Messina's response is insufficient, however, as Faraz Royal Qeshm is a front company for Tidewater set up to evade sanctions--something the EU itself confirmed in its Council Regulation concerning sanctions on Iran. Faraz Royal Qeshm was in fact established only days after the U.S. government sanctioned Tidewater in 2011."
Given Ignazio Messina's ignorance of the Faraz Royal Qeshm and Tidewater connection, UANI remains concerned that its new declared shipping agent at Bandar Abbas, "Penjam Gulf Port Services Co.," is of similarly dubious provenance, particularly considering the IRGC's known control of the port.
In a letter to Ignazio Messina CEO, Stefano Messina, UANI CEO, Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, wrote:
" … UANI must bring to your attention that contrary to your assertion, Faraz Royal Qeshm is in fact very much related to the Tidewater Middle East Company . Faraz Royal Qeshm was established seven days after the U.S. measure – and seven months prior to the implementation of the EU equivalent injunction – as a front company for Tidewater in an obvious attempt to evade sanctions. By engaging Faraz Royal Qeshm as the terminal operator for your vessels, Ignazio Messina does indeed appear to be in violation of EU (and U.S.) sanctions. While UANI acknowledges that Ignazio Messina may not have been aware of the relationship between Faraz Royal Qeshm and Tidewater at the time, in light of this disclosure it is incumbent upon Ignazio Messina to review its stance on its Iranian operations. …"