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13°c USA, US

Restrictions & Sanctions

US sanctions against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (USA)

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is listed as a "non-entrant country". Hence, Democratic People's Republic of Korean vessels are not permitted to enter US ports, internal waters, or territorial seas except when engaged in innocent passage, under the conditions of force majeure, or distress situations involving a medical emergency.

OFAC regulations, authorised under the Trading with the Enemy Act, established economic sanctions against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in 1950. They have since been modified on several occasions.

The Department of the Treasury, along with the Departments of State and the U.S. Coast Guard, is issuing a sanctions advisory on North Korea.


US sanctions against Iran (USA)

Iran is listed as a "non-entrant country". Hence, Iranian vessels are not permitted to enter US ports, internal waters, or territorial seas except when engaged in innocent passage, under the conditions of force majeure, or distress situations involving a medical emergency.

US persons and companies (including foreign subsidiaries) are prohibited from transacting business with Iran, either directly or indirectly, with certain exceptions.

On 5 August 1996, the US President signed the "Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996" which unilaterally imposes secondary sanctions against non US nationals/companies investing USD 40,000,000 or more in Iran during a 12 month period.

On 1 July 2010, the US President signed the "Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010" (CISADA) and Executive Order No. 13590 issued 21 November 2011 which enhanced economic sanctions relating to Irans refined petroleum products industry. Additional measures were introduced under Executive Order No. 13590 issued 21 November 2011 and Executive Order issued 31 July 2012.

On 10 August 2012, the US President signed into law the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012. This amends the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 and Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA) by adding additional sanctions.

On 10 October 2012, the US President signed a new Executive Order “Authorizing the Implementation of Certain Sanctions Set Forth in the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 and Additional Sanctions with Respect to Iran” which prohibits foreign subsidiaries of U.S. persons from knowingly violating the Iranian Transactions Regulations.

On 2 January 2013, the US President signed into law the "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013" which includes the "Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012" (IFCPA) under Sections 1241 to 1255, further expanding US sanctions against Iran. Whilst a few of the new sanctions took immediate effect, most will become effective 180 days after the date of enactment (i.e. 1 July 2013).

On 24 November 2013, the P5+1 (the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China) reached an initial understanding with Iran, outlined in a Joint Plan of Action (JPOA). In return for Iran’s commitment to place meaningful limits on its nuclear program, the P5+1 committed to provide Iran with limited, targeted, and reversible sanctions relief for a six-month period.

On 12 January 2014, the P5+1 and Iran arrived at technical understandings for the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), which will be implemented beginning on 20 January 2014 and ending 20 July 2014 (JPOA Period).  The relief provided in the JPOA only pertained to conduct and transactions fully completed during the JPOA Period, and, with limited exceptions, involved only certain sanctions on non-U.S. persons not otherwise subject the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations. The exemption were extended several times.

On 16 January 2016 the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was implemented and the United States lifted its nuclear related sanction as described in the JCPOA. In connection with the lifting OFAC issued the following: 

US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)
On 8 May 2018 the President announced the decision to cease the US participation in the JCPOA.  The US withdrawal from the JCPOA, and its decision to reactivate the nuclear related laws that were waived in order to implement the JCPOA, will have significant complications for maritime trade with Iran and companies engaged in this.

On 6 August 2018 the President issued Executive Order 13846 which re-imposes secondary sanctions that had been suspended pursuant to the JCPOA. A previously established wind-down period will remain in effect until 4 November 2018 for some categories of transactions which include those relating to shipping, shipbuilding and port sectors of Iran.

It would appear that these sanctions will be relevant not only to entities directly dealing with public and private sector entities in Iran but also third parties who deal with both US and Iranian entities.

Companies based in EU would, however, also need to consider the effects of the EU Blocking Regulation. The EU's updated Blocking Statute which entered into force on 7 August 2018 is intended to protect EU persons and entities from the effects of US secondary sanctions.

In effect the companies must comply with either EU law or the US imposed sanctions on Iran making it a very difficult and highly complex situation.  It is, however, possible for companies to apply for an exemption from compliance with the EU blocking regulation.

Despite the blocking regulation, it seems EU operators may still face the ultimate US penalties, that is, a blocking of the operator’s property in the US and loss of access to the US financial system. It consequently remains to be seen to which extent the Blocking Statute will counteract the US secondary sanctions.

While there are many uncertainties related to the sanctions, it is clear that members already conducting, or considering to conduct, business involving Iranian entities or interests must seek input from legal professionals with expertise in the US sanctions programme. If members are based in the EU the input is also needed from specialists in the EU Blocking Regulation.

The P&I Clubs have issued circulars particularly dealing with this topic and more information can also be found on OFAC’s website.

Aside from the reactivated nuclear related laws, the main sanction items of interest are:

Specially Designated Nationals List (SDN List)
The sanctions involve designated entities, referred to as Specially Designated Nationals or SDNs, which list companies and individuals located not just in Iran, but anywhere in the world. The list also includes the names of vessels which have been determined to be owned or controlled by designated entities and numerous banks/financial institutions involved with designated entities.

As companies, individuals, vessels and financial institutions may not appear to be related to the Iranian sanctions, having innocuous names and may be located in countries with which one enjoys harmonious trade relations, it is vitally important to carefully screen all parties involved (i.e. shippers, receivers, charterers, owners, brokers, banks, vessel, port/terminal operator, etc...) to ensure that no designated entity is directly or indirectly involved.

Arms and strategic goods and services embargo
Ban on Arms exports to Iran.
Restrictions on exports to Iran of "Duel Use Items".

Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, Sec. 203 will apply sanctions on a person that on or after the date of the enactment of theAct, exported, transferred, permitted or otherwise facilitated the transshipment of, any goods, services, technology, or other items to any other person; and knew or should have known that this would contribute materially to the ability of Iran to acquire or develop chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons or related technologies; or acquire or develop destabilizing numbers and types of advanced conventional weapons.

Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, Sec. 211 provides that if the President determines that a person, on or after the date of the enactment of this Act, knowingly sells, leases, or provides a vessel or provides insurance or reinsurance or any other shipping service for the transportation to or from Iran of goods that could materially contribute to the activities of the Government of Iran with respect to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or support for acts of international terrorism, the President shall block and prohibit all transactions in all property and interests in property ... if such property and interests in property are in the United States, come within the United States, or are or come within the possession or control of a United States person.

Iron, steel, aluminum, and copper
On 8 May 2019, the President of the United States issued a new Executive Order (E.O.), imposing sanctions with respect to the iron, steel, aluminum, and copper sectors of Iran. The relevant FAQ can be viewed here.

CISADA includes mandatory banking sanctions targeted at foreign banks that knowingly facilitate: Iranian WMD transactions; transactions related to Iran's support for terrorism; the activities of persons sanctioned under Iran related United Nations Security Council Resolutions; significant transactions with the IRGC (Iran's Revolutionary Guard) or its affiliates; or significant transactions with Iranian linked banks designated by the United States.

Freezing of Assets
Includes the freezing of US based property/assets of the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) and affiliated entities.

Travel restrictions
Travel ban on named persons

Further information:


US sanctions against Iraq (USA)

Trading restrictions are administered and enforced by the OFAC. On 13 September 2010, OFAC removed the Iraqi Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 575, from 31 C.F.R. chapter V, and added the Iraq Stabilization and Insurgency Sanctions Regulations ("ISISR") as new part 576 to 31 C.F.R. chapter V. The ISISR implement Executive Order 13303 of 22 May 2003, Executive Order 13315 of 28 August 2003, Executive Order 13350 of 29 July 2004, Executive Order 13364 of 29 November 2004, and Executive Order 13438 of 17 July 2007.


Terminated US sanctions (USA)


  • Myanmar sanctions ended as of 7 October 2016
  • Ivory Coast sanctions ended as of 14 September 2016.

US sanctions against Cuba (USA)

On 16 January 2015 the amended Cuban Assets Control Regulations (31 C.F.R. § 515) came into effect upon publication in the Federal Register implementing policy changes as announced by the President on 17 December 2014. One of the amendments is to section 515.550 Certain vessel transactions authorized which broadened the definition of vessels permitted to engage in trade with Cuba, subject to specific licensing requirements.

"Revise § 515.550 to read as follows: 

§ 515.550 Certain vessel transactions authorized. 
Unless a vessel is otherwise engaging or has otherwise engaged in transactions that would prohibit entry pursuant to § 515.207, § 515.207 shall not apply to a vessel that is: 

(a) Engaging or has engaged in trade with Cuba authorized pursuant to § 515.533 or § 515.559; 

(b) Engaging or has engaged in trade with Cuba that is exempt from the prohibitions of this part (see § 515.206); 

(c) Engaging or has engaged in the exportation or re-exportation to Cuba from a third country of agricultural commodities, medicine, or medical devices that would be designated as EAR99 under the Export Administration Regulations (15 CFR part 730 et seq.), if they were located in the United States; or 

(d) A foreign vessel that has entered a port or place in Cuba while carrying students, faculty, and staff that are authorized to travel to Cuba pursuant to § 515.565(a).Show citation box 

Note to § 515.550(d): This general license does not authorize vessels to transport persons between the United States and Cuba. See § 515.572(c)."     

Cuba is listed as a "non-entrant country". Hence, Cuban vessels are not permitted to enter US ports, internal waters, or territorial seas except when engaged in innocent passage, under the conditions of force majeure, or distress situations involving a medical emergency. 

Non Cuban registered, owned, operated or chartered vessels are governed in part by the "Cuban Democracy Act 1992" (CDA) and the "Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996"

The following excerpt is taken from an OFAC Sanctions Brochure on Cuba.

"Exporting to Cuba 
Except for publications, other informational materials (such as CDs and certain artwork), certain donated food, certain licensed legal and telecommunications services, and certain goods licensed for export or re-export by the U.S. Department of Commerce (such as medicine and medical devices, food, agricultural commodities, and gift parcels), no products, technology, or services may be exported from the United States to Cuba, either directly or through third countries, such as Canada or Mexico, absent a specific license from OFAC. This prohibition includes dealing in or assisting with the sale of goods or commodities to or from Cuba, even if done entirely offshore. Such brokering is considered to be dealing in property in which Cuba has an interest and is therefore prohibited. Provision of consulting services is also prohibited. Thus, no U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, wherever located, and no foreign subsidiary or branch of a U.S. organization, may export products, technology, or services to Cuba or to any Cuban national, wherever they may be located, or broker the sale of goods or commodities to or from Cuba or any Cuban national.

Pursuant to section 515.533 of the Regulations(*), transactions ordinarily incident to the exportation of items from the United States to Cuba or the reexportation of 100% U.S.-origin items from a third country to Cuba are authorized by general license provided the export is licensed or otherwise authorized by the Department of Commerce. Pursuant to provisions of the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 (the “CDA”) and the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000, the Commerce Department maintains a favourable license policy with respect to the sale and export or re-export of medicine and medical devices, food, and agricultural commodities to Cuba. Those interested in engaging in such exports or re-exports must first obtain authorization from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security. All licensed sales must be financed by cash-in-advance or by third-country banks that are not persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction or owned or controlled by Cuba or Cuban nationals. Foreign subsidiaries of U.S. banks, however, are authorized to directly finance licensed sales of agricultural products. All U.S. banks may advise or confirm any of the transactions authorized above. Section 1705(b) of the CDA provides for donations of food to independent non-governmental organizations or individuals in Cuba. Shipments of food may be donated to non-governmental organizations from the U.S. or from third countries without a license from the U.S. government.

In the mid-1970s, section 515.559 was added to the Regulations to publicize OFAC's policy of licensing foreign subsidiaries of U.S. firms to conduct trade in commodities with Cuba so long as several specific criteria were met. Section 1706(a) of the CDA, however, prohibits the issuance of licenses that would have been issued pursuant to section 515.559, except where a contract was entered into prior to enactment of the CDA or where the exports at issue are medicines or medical supplies or certain telecommunications equipment. Accordingly, OFAC does not license foreign subsidiaries of U.S. firms to conduct trade in commodities with Cuba except in limited circumstances.

Pursuant to the CDA and section 515.207 of the Regulations, no vessel carrying goods or passengers to or from Cuba or carrying goods in which Cuba or a Cuban national has any interest may enter a U.S. port absent authorization from OFAC. The prohibition applies to vessels even if they enter only to take on fuel and supplies (bunker), whether from U.S. fuel providers within the port limits or at offshore points, as well as vessels discharging or loading merchandise offshore, by lighter or otherwise. In addition, vessels that enter a port or place in Cuba to engage in the trade of goods or services are prohibited from entering a U.S. port for the purpose of loading or unloading any freight for 180 days. Pursuant to section 515.550 of the Regulations, a general license authorizes entry into U.S. ports notwithstanding these two vessel prohibitions provided the vessel is engaging solely in trade with Cuba that is authorized by license or exempt from the Regulations (e.g., vessels carrying authorized exports of agricultural products or donations of food to nongovernmental organizations or individuals)."

(*) The Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 CFR Part 515"

The " Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996" (also known as the Helms-Burton Act) is aimed at discouraging foreign investment in Cuba in former U.S. property nationalised by the Cuban government in 1959. The legislation has been drafted in such broad and ambiguous terms that it is very difficult to interpret the effects of this Act on international shipping.

However, Title IV provides for the exclusion from the United States, either through denial of a visa or exclusion at the port of entry, of any foreign national who the Secretary of State determines is a person who, "traffics" in "confiscated" property in Cuba, a claim to which is owned by a US national. Title IV requires the exclusion of corporate officers, principals or controlling shareholders of companies that engage in such trafficking, as well as the spouse, minor child or agent of persons excluded.

Title IV defines "traffics" to include: transfers, distributes, dispenses, brokers or otherwise disposes of confiscated property; purchases, receives, obtains control of, or otherwise acquires confiscated property; or improves or invests in (other than for routine maintenance) or begins to manage, lease, possess, use or hold an interest in confiscated property. The term "traffics" also covers entry into a commercial arrangement using or otherwise benefiting form confiscated property, as well as causing, directing, participating in or profiting from trafficking by or through another person or entity.

Purchasing a vessel which has previously been under Cuban ownership. 
What, if any, implications are there for the ship with respect to trading at US ports ?

The US Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) informed BIMCO that vessels which have been Cuban-owned are entered on OFAC's list of Cuban Specially Designated Nationals (SDN's) and Cuban entities and vessels. Having purchased such a vessel an owner must apply to OFAC to have the ship removed from the list, otherwise she will be blocked upon entering US waters. 

OFAC will remove ships from their list once they are provided with acceptable evidence that the sale or other transfer of the vessel has completely terminated any interest in the vessel of Cuba or a Cuban national. However, OFAC advised that the 180 day prohibition put on vessels which have called at Cuban ports is attached to the vessel, regardless of whether or not the ship changes ownership.


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