US follows strikes on Yemen with more sanctions

The US on Friday followed up Thursday night’s attacks on land-based strategic assets in Houthi-held Yemen, with an announcement from the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) that it would be hitting various entities with more sanctions.

Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E Nelson said that “the United States continues to take action against the illicit Iranian financial networks that fund the Houthis and facilitate their attacks. Together with our allies and partners, we will take all available measures to stop the destabilizing activities of the Houthis and their threats to global commerce.”

The target of this round of sanctions is the network of Houthi financial facilitator Sa’id al-Jamal, an Iran-based, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF)-backed operation.

The US statement asserted that Sa’id al-Jamal had engaged in a variety of commercial activities that involved the sale of Iranian commodities to generate revenue for the Houthis and the IRGC-QF.

Among the vessels they identified is the crude oil tanker Mehle (IMO 9191711) currently registered in Panama and owned and managed by Hong Kong-based Cielo Maritime. The US authorities said that the 1999-built vessel had been used to transport Iranian product, using “forged shipping documents to disguise the Iranian origin of the cargo.”

Like many vessels used in the shadow trade, this tanker has a spotty history. It underwent an initial port state inspection in China last August, where the authorities listed five deficiencies. Chief among them were problems with its emergency generator, fire detection, and alarm system, and maintenance of the fire protection systems.

The US is listing the tanker, while also designating Cielo Marine for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to, or in support of, Sa’id al-Jamal.

The second tanker listed on Friday was the Panama-registered products tanker Sincere 02 (IMO 9226011) which is managed and operated by Marshall Islands-registered, UAE-based Global Tech Marine Services. The US said it had sought to disguise the origin of the goods using forged documents.

Sa’id al-Jamal has shipped Iranian commodities onboard the Sincere 02 in coordination with newly-designated, Turkiye-based Abdi Nasir Ali Mahamud, OFAC said.

Two other tankers also operated by Global Tech Marine Services were also listed today – crude oil tanker Molecule, (IMO 9209300) and crude oil tanker Fortune Galaxy (IMO 9257010).

The first round of US Treasury sanctions against Houthi-related entities came on December 28th designated three organizations for helping to transfer Iranian funds to the Houthis. This included a currency exchange firm, a bank in Yemen and a Turkish financial services house.

1999-built, Panama-flagged, 78,845 gt Mehle is owned and managed by Cleo Maritime Ltd of Hong Kong China. As of January 12th it was in the Riau Archipelago off Indonesia, having left Dongjiakou on December 1st, awaiting orders.

2001-built, Panama-flagged, 28,522 gt Sincere 02 is owned by Ras Shipping Inc care of manager Global Tech Marine Services Inc of Dubai, UAE. Although currently still listed by Equasis as entered with American Club, the vessel does not appear on American Club’s list. As of January 14th the vessel was listed as Stopped in the Gulf of Oman, en route from Al Basrah, Iraq, to Fujairah, UAE, ETA January 14th.

1999-built, Cameroon-flagged, 41,825 gt Molecule is owned by Ion 1 Maritime Inc care of Global Tech Marine Services, Dubai, UAE. As of January 14th the vessel was at Khor Fakkan Anchorage (arrived December 27th).

2003-built, Panama-flagged, 56,172 gt Fortune Galaxy is owned by Ion 1 maritime Inc care of manager Global Tech Marine Services Inc of Dubai, UAE. Equasis currently lists it as being entered with American Club, but it does not appear on the more up-to-date American Club list. As of January 12th the vessel was at anchor at Khor Fakkan, UAE (arrived January 11th from Al Basrah, Iraq).