27 april 2019
The Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) has inspected and may have detained a sanctioned Iranian merchant vessel off Misrata.
The container ship Shahr E Kord, which the U.S. Treasury has sanctioned for connections to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), was detained by GNA forces off the coast of Misrata, Libya last week, according to multiple reports. AIS tracking shows that she was bound for Misrata from the port of Burgas, Bulgaria at the time of intercept.
The U.S Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) blacklisted the Shahr E. Kord on November 5, 2018, the day that the Trump administration reimposed sweeping economic sanctions on the government of Iran. U.S. entities are prohibited from doing business with the Iranian shipping sector, and foreign firms that engage with IRISL or the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) face the possibility of losing access to the U.S. financial system and U.S. markets.
In a statement to Iranian media, IRISL director Mohammad Saeedi said that reports that the Shahr E Kord had been detained were inaccurate, and that IRISL was in talks with the Tripoli-based government. “There is a dispute with the Libyan government about a ship that we are negotiating to resolve, but that ship has not been seized,” Saeedi told IRNA News.
The eastern Libyan administration of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, which is fighting the GNA for control of the country, claimed that the Kord was delivering arms to the Tripoli-based government. The port of Misrata is held by Tripoli-aligned forces.
“The [Shahr E Kord] is carrying weapons in 144 containers. The ship is owned by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and is under international sanctions,” alleged a spokesman for Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).
Haftar, a warlord who has united the eastern half of Libya under military rule, describes the internationally-recognized GNA as “terrorists.” His forces are currently engaged in a battle for control of Tripoli, and fierce house-to-house fighting in the southern portion of the city is ongoing.