The United States is warning other countries not to allow Iranian oil tankers into their territorial waters or ports, saying such access may run afoul of US sanctions and not only incur penalties, but also result in catastrophic economic and environmental damage should an accident occur. The State Department reminded the global shipping and insurance industries Wednesday that as part of the Trump administration's "maximum pressure campaign" to get Iran to change its behavior, insuring Iranian tankers will now incur penalties under US sanctions reinstated this week, the AP reports.
Brian Hook, the special US representative for Iran, said that as major insurers withdraw coverage from Iranian vessels, Iran will likely turn to domestic insurance companies that will not be able to cover losses for maritime accidents that could run into the billions of dollars. "Iranian tankers are now a floating liability," Hook told reporters. The US "sincerely hopes" accidents do not occur, he said, but he noted that an Iranian tanker was involved in an accident in the East China Sea in January that resulted in the loss of the ship and a massive oil spill. He said the US has evidence that Iranian vessels are trying to evade US sanctions by disabling location transponders used to prevent collisions. (Iran warned of a "war situation" after sanctions were reinstated this week.)