MONROVIA, 1 January 2021 – Twelve shipping companies flying the Liberian flag as a flag of convenience have been sanctioned by the Congress of the United States
The United States Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) did not give details on the dealings by the shipping companies that led to their being sanctioned.
The bulk of the shipping companies sanctioned are neither Liberian nor based in Liberia.
Instead, they are shell companies, using Liberia as a safe haven to evade taxes, or working underground to finance terror networks, or involved with drug trafficking, gunrunning or human trafficking.
Most of the sanctions companies use Liberia as a flag of convenience.
The practice allows the owners of a shiip (who so desire) to register their ships in a country other than their own.
Ships registered thus are then able to fly the civil ensign of Liberia, called the flag state, obtained from a registry that does not even need to be physically located in Liberia.
In a 2019 investigative article, The Economist revealed that a whopping 4,400 vessels, being about 12 percent of the global shipping fleet, fly the Liberian flag and each year pay an annual fee to Monrovia somewhere north of $20 million.
.Liberia maintains the world’s second biggest registry of ships.
That amount, while small for most economies, is more than a drop of water in Liberia’s economy, with an estimated 2019 GDP of $2.1 billion.
Four of the shipping companies sanctioned are Ballito Bay Shipping Inc, Blue Tanker Shipping SA, Dolphin Trading Company Limited, and Garbin Nacigation Ltd.
These latest sanctions come barely a month after the United States Government, earlier this month, placed sanctions on Liberian lawyer and Senator for Grand Cape Mount, Varney H. Sherman for alleged acts of corruption and influence peddling.
Washington says Senator Sherman, in 2010, offered bribes to multiple judges associated with the famous Global Witness trial and failed to disclose a conflict of interest with the judge who ultimately returned a “Not Guilty” verdict in July 2019.
The U.S. also alleges that Senator Sherman has routinely paid judges to decide cases in his favor and has facilitated the payment to Liberian politicians to support the impeachment of former Associate Justice Kabina Ja’neh, who had ruled against him.
Under the sanctions, all of Senator Sherman’s properties and interest in property in the United States or in the possession or control of the U.S., are frozen and must be reported to the U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Assets and Control.