Why Are Liberian-Registered Ships In The Line Of Iran’s Fire?


LIBERIA APPEARS TO BE ENGULFED in a major international crisis amid concerns that Iran may be behind an attack on a Liberia-registered cargo ship believing it was owned by an Israeli businessman who reportedly sold his stake months ago.

THE LEBANESE PRO-Iranian TV first reported the incident last week drawing immediate concerns from Israel.

ISRAEL’S  N12 television station, citing unnamed sources within Israel’s defence establishment, said the vessel, the Tyndall, was owned by Zodiac Maritime Ltd, a London-headquartered international ship management company which later said it did not own or manage the CSAV Tyndall.

MR. LENN EUGENE NAGBE, head of the Liberia Maritime Authority(LiMA) said Tuesday that the Liberian Registry was aware of the incident.

SPEAKING TO FRONTPAGEAFRICA, Commissioner Nagbe averred: “In keeping with our responsibility as the flag state and in consonance with international maritime law, our investigators are probing the situation in collaboration with the relevant parties. However, even though we have not established the actuality and cause of the incident, Liberia’s position remains that we condemn all acts of aggression particularly attacks on vessels flying our flag. We abhor all these acts which infringe on freedom of navigation and inhibit free trade and commerce”.

AFRICA’S OLDEST republic is currently ranked second amongst the world’s flag carriers, recording a 9.3% growth rate to 188m gt as of end-October 2020, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence data.

LIBERIA IS SECOND TO  Panama which leads the way, recording a 4.4% growth to almost 235m gross tonnes in 2020 compared with the previous year, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence data, representing roughly 16% of the world fleet. 

THE LIBERIAN PROGRAM is managed by the US-based Liberia International Shipping Registry(LISCR) in collaboration with the Liberia Maritime Authority(LIMA). Over the past year, vessel count rose by about 268 ships, which made it the fastest growing of the Top 10 flag states.

DESPITE the onslaught of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Liberian registry has been able to adapt to the challenges, offering remote ship registration and delivery, as well as remote inspections to maintain safety levels as much as possible.

THE REGISTRY HAS ALSO in recent months since the pandemic, opened new offices in Oslo and Houston in 2020 and expanded its expertise in liquefied natural gas.

THE FLAG HAS ALSO added to its leadership team, with two appointments in the Maritime Operations unit to help manage its growth, which has seen it close the gap on Panama, which is 45 gt ahead, versus 53 gt in 2019.    

LAST WEEK’S attack on the Liberian flag carrier has raised concerns about the security of flags carrying Liberian flags being wrongly targeted by countries with strategic interests.

ALTHOUGH THE CREW of the ship, possibly hit by a missile, were unhurt, the vessel suffered minor damaged.

SHIP-TRACKING data from Refinitiv Eikon showed the CSAV Tyndall container ship, which sails under a Liberian flag, was last docked in Jeddah and was now off the coast of Dubai.

IRONICALLY, IN JUNE, Iran’s largest navy ship sank after catching fire in the Gulf of Oman, in what appeared to be the latest incident in a region of sensitive waterways, where arch-enemies Iran and Israel have traded accusations of attacks on each other’s vessels. 

LAST MONTH an Iranian container ship was damaged in an attack in the Mediterranean, two weeks after an Israeli-owned ship the MV HELIOS RAY – owned by the same company as the Hyperion Ray according to a U.N. shipping database – was hit by an explosion in the Gulf of Oman.

REUTERS REPORTED recently that the incidents have occurred since U.S. President Joe Biden took office in January with a commitment to rejoin the 2015 nuclear pact – abandoned by his predecessor Donald Trump in a move welcomed by Israel – if Tehran returns to full compliance with the deal.

ACCORDING TO REUTERS, Iran has said it would start enriching uranium to 60% purity, a move that would take the fissile material closer to the 90% suitable for a nuclear weapon. 

CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF ALL THIS is Liberia, a country whose registry has been making headway and inching toward top carrier for the top spot it relinquished due to the civil war which lasted for more than a decade.

THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME that Liberia has been wrongly targeted by Iran. Last January, some Iranians desecrated the Liberian flag, they mistook for the United States flag.

IRAN APPEARS to be repeatedly using its might to step on a small nation over matters Liberia has no business with.

WHETHER IT IS BURNING the flag of Liberia or wrongly targeting and attacking an international ship carrying Liberian flag, these issues need urgent redress from international stakeholders including the United Nations and the United States. While nothing major occurred this time around, the danger appears to be lurking on the horizon as Iran continues its unabated actions without repercussions.