Maersk Line Ltd., the U.S.-flag carrier of Denmark’s Maersk Line, said it paid a $3.1 million fine to the U.S. Government for transporting containers that were either bound for or coming from Iran and Sudan in violation of the U.S. embargo on trade with those countries in ships that carry the U.S. flag.
“Our cargo-management systems did not identify that the cargo should not go aboard the U.S.-flag ships, and it did,” said Kevin Speers, senior director of marketing and administration for the Maersk division.
“The system was corrected several years ago when this investigation first started,” he said. “We’ve also implemented additional training to ensure that our (personnel) understand the importance of compliance to these trade sanctions.”
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The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control assessed the penalty for cargo that Maersk Line Ltd. carried to Sudan and Iran between January 2003 and October 2007.
According to the ruling by OFAC, MLL provided 4,714 shipments of cargo originating in or bound for Sudan and Iran in that period.
The shipping company had faced fines of more than $60 million for the violations, but OFAC reduced the size of the penalty because MLL “substantially and fully cooperated with OFAC’s investigations of the alleged violations,” the OFAC statement said.
The OFAC investigation started in June and July 2007 when the agency sent letters to a number of U.S.-flag carriers, including MLL, requesting information on U.S.-flag voyages that may have been in violation of the embargo.
"We went beyond those voyages and looked at other cargo that may have triggered a violation,” Speers told The Journal of Commerce. “We were diligent in correcting the violation and were forthcoming in identifying other potential violations.”
The violations concerned a variety of commercial cargo, none of which was of a sensitive nature.
"What happened is that cargo that was either imported or exported in Iran at some point of time was placed on an American-flagged ship" belonging to Maersk, "but not in Iran," Speers said.
“In the case of Sudan, MLL had been granted a waiver to deliver U.S. food aid to Sudan, but cargo was lifted on board that was not covered by the waiver, he said.
But "the booking systems did not identify cargo that was coming on and off the ship and that could be a violation of the embargo," he said.
“The changes we’ve made should identify cargo that is eligible or ineligible to ride U.S.-flag vessels,” he said.
The U.S. government imposed a trade embargo on Sudan in 1997 due to human rights violations linked to the civil war between the north and south of the African country, and also because of the regime's alleged support of international terrorist groups.
The trade embargo against Iran meanwhile came during the Ronald Reagan administration in 1987 after initial sanctions against the nascent Islamic republic in 1979 had already been tightened in 1984.
-- Contact Peter T. Leach at email@example.com.