Maritime bill targets terrorist states

The United States wields a new tool in its effort to combat Iran: the Coast Guard bill.

And though the legislation still sits on the president’s desk, it may already have affected world trade.

A tiny provision in the Coast Guard authorization bill would ensure that organizations that inspect ships for the United States don’t also do so for terrorist-backed countries. Intended to pressure Iran, these few lines underscore the more complex issues of ship security, the Coast Guard’s responsibilities and the somewhat shadowy world of third-party agencies known as classification societies.

These organizations evaluate vessels and approve their safety plans, a requirement under international maritime treaties. Their certifications serve as the green light into major ports and are necessary for conducting international trade.

“It made no sense that we do business with companies that turn around and do business with Iran,” Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas), the incoming House Homeland Security Committee chairman who pushed the legislation, told POLITICO. “It’s kind of part and parcel of the sanctions we were trying to do.”

The China Classification Society last month confirmed it had stopped interacting with Iran’s vessels, making it the last of the world’s 13 leading societies to do so.

McCaul considered it a direct result of the impending legislation, which he, Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced last year as the Ethical Shipping Inspections Act.

An Iranian official recently expressed concern about the decrease in classification societies willing to do business with his country’s vessels.

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Source: Politico, written by Jessica Meyers.

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