A U.K. enforcement agency is urging the maritime industry to be on the lookout for illicit practices that could be used to evade sanctions, the latest regulator to warn about compliance risks facing the industry.
Guidance by the U.K.’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation, which is part of the country’s Treasury department, indicates companies are susceptible to suspicious shipping practices such as the intentional disabling of vessel-tracking systems to conduct illegal trade and the falsifying of documentation for maritime transactions.
Maritime insurance companies, charterers, customs and port state controls, and flag registries are among the sectors exposed to the risks, the agency said.
The guidance, which was issued last week and amplified in a government blog post Monday, adds to a evolving list of guidelines aimed at the maritime industry and underscores compliance complexities facing those operating in the U.S., the U.K. and the European Union, sanctions experts say.
Three U.S. agencies issued guidance for the maritime sector in May, saying the industry may need to develop procedures to avoid being exploited by terrorists and other illicit actors seeking to trade with countries subject to U.S. sanctions.
The U.K. operates the largest share of the global maritime insurance market, and 13 of the major international protection and indemnity associations of marine insurance providers operate from management offices in the U.K., the OFSI said.
Entities and individuals in the maritime sector need to assess their own risks and conduct sufficient due diligence to ensure compliance with sanctions, according to the agency, which emphasized the importance of understanding sanctions regulations in high-risk jurisdictions and using vessel-tracking systems and subscription-based resources to verify ownership structures of customers and business partners.
The guidance highlights the additional compliance obligations for companies operating in the maritime industry as they navigate the similar but different sanctions systems between the U.S. and the U.K., said Eric Lorber, a vice president at advisory firm K2 Intelligence/Financial Integrity Network.
The U.K. is in the process of transitioning to its own set of sanctions compliance guidelines as part of its departure from the European Union.
During the transition period, which ends Dec. 31, individuals and companies in the U.K. are still required to comply with the EU’s sanctions policies, in addition to United Nations sanctions and the U.K.’s own sanctions programs. The U.S. has its own sanctions programs and follows UN sanctions as well.
A shipping company based in the U.K. that conducts U.S. dollar transactions would need to comply with more than one sanctions system.
“It’s the first time you’re beginning to see this balancing act by a number of institutions in the maritime industry between two different regulatory jurisdictions that require similar actions but don’t line up one to one,” he said. “It’s really challenging for an industry that doesn’t have the sanctions expertise.”