Press releases

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) in urging the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP) to investigate potential instances of Iranian oil sanction violations. 

According to open-source data, Iran and buyers, such as China, use vessels known as “ghost fleets” to conceal illegal Iranian oil exports. These vessels use tactics to evade detection including disabling GPS trackers, transferring oil between tankers mid-journey and “flag hopping” between different national registries.

“As you know, it has been bipartisan U.S. policy for decades to deprive Iran of the financing and resources it uses to fund international terrorism. In addition to threatening regional security in the Middle East, Iran has been credibly linked to transnational criminal activity and terrorism in our own hemisphere. We therefore request that you cooperate with the United States and conduct investigations into a significant number of ships registered in Panama which are alleged to transport Iranian oil in violation of U.S. sanctions,” the senators wrote.

“As of December 2023, the nonprofit United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) has identified 383 vessels suspected as belonging to the ‘ghost fleet,’ of which 189 (49 percent) are flagged in Panama. The specific ships are listed in the appendix to this letter. AMP has so far de-flagged just 28 of 217 vessels of concern,” they continued. 

The senators also raised concerns that AMP is not exercising its due diligence when it comes to flagging potential ghost vessels, and that such practices could potentially be used to evade U.S. sanctions on Russian oil. 

“We respectfully ask that you thoroughly investigate the alleged involvement of these 189 ships in transporting sanctioned Iranian oil and follow your established procedures to de-flag ships whose involvement is corroborated by available evidence, decline to flag such vessels again in the future, and extend similar scrutiny to vessels under suspicion of evading sanctions on other countries,” they concluded.

The full letter is available here.