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Maritime Disaster Waiting to Happen (Page 3 of 3)

Others suggest one means of recovering costs incurred in dealing with an environmental incident would be to sequester any Iranian state-owned property or assets within the affected country, such as aircraft operated by state-owned Iran Air.

Gavin Greenwood, a risk analyst with Hong Kong-based Allan & Associates, says the recent seizure of a Thai aircraft used by the country’s crown prince in Germany to try and resolve a long standing dispute over money was one example over how this could work.

‘The International Court of Justice could also be involved, though this is a long term proposition,’ he says, adding that ‘Iran used the ICJ to claim restitution from the US after a US Navy warship shot down an Iran Air Airbus in July 1988.’

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Mohan Malik, Professor of Asian Security at the Asian-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu, says the location of an accident involving the Iranian shipping line would also be important.

‘If it happens in the busy Malacca Straits or in the South China Sea, most littoral and major powers will be forced to contribute to the clean-up in order to facilitate an uninterrupted flow of energy and goods,’ he says.

‘Of course, there will be law suits against the Iranian government too, but the Islamic clerics can be expected to invoke Allah’s wrath on those who do so. Also, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and other UN agencies would be called upon to play a greater role in ensuring that uninsured shipping lines aren’t allowed to operate in international waters.’

The IMO declined to comment on IRISL. However, sources close to the organisation say it has been undertaking amendments to its strategic direction in regards to liability and compensation claims in the wake of the Deep Horizon disaster.

Most maritime authorities demand a Blue Card from the P&I insurer as evidence that sufficient insurance is in place to meet liability requirements under the Bunker convention. But in Asia it’s not clear how routinely this is enforced or checked. If a maritime agency had doubts about the owners or operators ability to meet a liability it is able to deny a vessel entry or exit from ports or waters under its control.

Thayer says that lack of clarity in Asia demonstrates ‘yet again’ the weakness of the region’s security architecture and the reluctance of many Asian states to support sanctions.

‘By allowing the IRISL to continue in the face of sanctions, they are undermining not only good order at sea but inviting a disaster for which they will have to assume responsibility,’ Thayer says. ‘Banning IRISL ships from Asian ports would be a good first step in supporting the non-proliferation regime and protecting the marine environment against an accidental fuel spill.’

While the United States, EU and UK have taken the lead against Iran in regards to its declared and undeclared nuclear weapons ambitions, the real world impact of those sanctions are now being seen well beyond the Iranian interests that have been targeted.

IRISL continues to operate in Asian waters, with untested and unproven insurance. The responsibility for ensuring Asia doesn’t become a victim of events in Iran now rests squarely on the shoulders of Asian governments and their maritime authorities.

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