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The Mystery over ‘Maria’

2 July 2015 05:21 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Sri Lanka has been a country that has always worked in line with its friendly allies to maintain and enhance ties as means of strengthening international relations. These ties include partnerships for import and export trade and other business initiatives which aim at the development of the country. 





While every country would fall prey to illegal offshore activities, it is nothing new to Sri Lanka. When corruption and malpractices take place in broad daylight, it is common knowledge that there is a political backing for these activities. A recent activity that has been studied is the frequent visits of Iranian vessels to Sri Lankan waters. F-Whale was the first to make its appearance followed by Maria which was allegedly docked at the Colombo port on June 30.


Sanctions on Iran
The United States imposed restrictions on activities with Iran under various legal authorities since 1979; following the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The most recent statute, the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act (ITRSHRA) added new measures and procedures to the 1996 Iran Sanctions Act (ISA). The ISA authorizes sanctions on businesses or individuals engaging in certain commercial transactions in Iran.

The Department of State’s Office of Economic Sanctions Policy and Implementation is responsible for enforcing and implementing a number of US sanctions programmes that restrict access to the United States for companies that engage in certain commercial activities in Iran, in particular the ISA, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA), ITRSHRA, Executive Order 13590 and Executive Order 13622.

Acting both through the United Nations Security Council and regional or national authorities, the United States, the Member States of the European Union, Japan, the Korean Republic, Canada, Australia, Norway, Switzerland and others put in place a strong, inter-locking matrix of sanctions measures relating to Iran’s nuclear, missile, energy, shipping, transportation and financial sectors.

 

"‘Maria’ was in Sri Lankan waters on June 30, and was alleged to have brought supplies to Litro Gas (Pvt) Ltd. A source who remained under strict condition of anonymity said that the ship which was sent by a front-line company named Primex "



These measures are designed: (1) to block the transfer of weapons, components, technology, and dual-use items to Iran’s prohibited nuclear and missile programmes; (2) to target select sectors of the Iranian economy relevant to its proliferation activities; and (3) to induce Iran to engage constructively, through discussions with the United States, China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Russia in the “E3+3 process,” to fulfill its non-proliferation obligations.
Since Sri Lanka has a strong tie with the US, it is common sense that we too would support US and its initiatives. 


Unauthorized Iranian shipments in Sri Lankan waters
An oil tanker by the name of ‘F-Whale’ visited Sri Lanka during mid-June asking the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) for bunkering services. However, the Dailymirror learned that no such service was given due to the procedures that the company had to abide by. Moreover, it was confirmed that the ship was docked within a 12km radius off the Colombo port and that it never reached Sri Lankan shores.

 

"Yet, according to the berthing schedule, ‘Maria’ was not in the list and this raised serious doubts as to whether this ship too was an unauthorized vessel"



Following this incident, another oil and gas tanker ‘Maria’ was in Sri Lankan waters on June 30, and was alleged to have brought supplies to Litro Gas (Pvt) Ltd. A source who remained under strict condition of anonymity said that the ship was sent by a front-line company named Primex but was registered under the Iranian National Shipping Corporation. Any foreign shipment that visits another country needs to have a Letter of Credit (LC) account and the Dailymirror learned that this account was maintained by Primex through the People’s Bank.   Several attempts to contact many individuals at Litro Gas, including the Chairman, Managing Director and Finance personnel they failed. 

The Dailymirror une 29 as a last resort to get the true story behind this ship which was supposed to be in Sri Lanka on June 30. This too was a tedious task since the Dailymirror couldn’t contact the Harbour Master. A person who answered his telephone asked us to contact the Deputy Harbour Master who too was uncertain about giving any information. He in turn directed us to contact the SLPA media unit. The Media unit informed the Dailymirror to follow the berthing schedule which has a record of all ships that enter Sri Lanka the following day. Yet, according to the berthing schedule, ‘Maria’ was not in the list and this raised serious doubts as to whether this ship too was an unauthorized vessel. 



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