The United States has warned all ports
and insurance companies to steer clear of Iranian ships, which it called a
"floating liability" after the imposition of sweeping US sanctions.
Brian Hook, the State Department's
special representative on Iran policy, said that
the US sanctions extended to insurers and underwriters.
"Knowingly providing these services to
sanctioned Iranian shipping companies
will result in the imposition of US sanctions," Hook told reporters on
Wednesday ( 7 November 2018).
"From the Suez Canal to the Strait
of Malacca and all choke points in between, Iranian tankers are now a floating
liability," he said.
He said that Iranian vessels would likely turn
to domestic insurers but doubted that they could cover losses stretching into
the millions or billions of dollars in a major calamity.
"Should there be an accident involving an
Iranian tanker, there is simply no way these Iranian insurance companies can
cover the loss," Hook said.
He said that the United States, whose military
patrols the Gulf and is allied with Iran's rival Saudi Arabia, did not
"We sincerely hope there will be no
accidents, but accidents are a very real possibility, given Iran's
record," Hook said.
President Donald Trump in May pulled out of
an international agreement
negotiated under his predecessor Barack Obama, in which Iran curtailed its
nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.
The Trump administration said that the
deal did not address other concerns, including Tehran's support for regional
proxies such as Hezbollah, and has boasted of the economic contraction forecast
in Iran due to the renewed sanctions.
The United States has nonetheless granted eight
waivers to places including China, India
and Japan, which will not immediately be punished for continuing to buy Iranian