The US Department of the Treasury has imposed a new round of sanctions on 10 shipping companies, vessels and ship captains for their roles in trading commodities to financially support terrorist organisations.

The sanctioned firms are part of what the Treasury describes as a network led by previously sanctioned “financial facilitator” Sa’id al-Jamal, who the department says provides material support to Yemen’s Houthis, a US-designated terrorist organisation.

It is the seventh time the US has unveiled sanctions against al-Jamal’s network, part of a long-running effort to curb the flow of funds to the Houthis and their backers, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“The Houthis continue to leverage an expansive support network to facilitate their illicit activities, including hiding the origin of cargo, forging shipping documents, and providing services to sanctioned vessels,” Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson says in a June 10 statement.

“As we demonstrated with our military strikes last week, the United States government is committed to disrupting and degrading the Houthis’ ability to engage in attacks against commercial shipping and naval vessels, as well as target those who seek to facilitate these activities.”

The sanctioned shipping companies helped the Sa’id al-Jamal network sell and transport goods to jurisdictions including China and Syria, the Treasury says. The statement does not identify the origin of any of the commodities shipped by the network, but says they include oil.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has designated Shark International Shipping LLC, a company with offices in the UAE and Oman, for providing “forged shipping documents for vessels shipping commodities on behalf of the Houthis”.

The company’s managing director, Indian national John Britto Aruldhas, has also been designated. Asked for comment, a Shark International representative tells GTR the company is only a shipping agency and is appealing the listing.

Rayyan Shipping (OPC) Private Limited, headquartered in India, has been sanctioned for acting as the manager and technical operator of the Guyana-flagged ship the Olympics. The vessel itself was sanctioned in March this year under its previous name, Lady Sofia.

The ship’s current master, Vivek Ashok Pandey, has also been sanctioned. The Treasury says that as of mid-May, the Olympics “was operating under forged paperwork falsely indicating that the vessel was carrying Malaysian commodities that were loaded at a Malaysian port in late April”.

OFAC has also designated Sandeep Singh Choudhary, the master of the vessel La Pearl. The ship, also known as the Elite, is connected to Saone Shipping Corporation, a company previously designated for providing services to sanctioned Iranian energy firm Sepehr Energy Jahan Nama Pars Company (SEJ).

The Treasury says the La Pearl is currently anchored off the coast of China “following its delivery of a sanctioned cargo”, and Choudhary is being sanctioned for providing support for SEJ.

Ship owners and managers are frequently in the crosshairs of US sanctions enforcement efforts, but the sanctioning of ship captains is relatively rare. Industry journal Lloyd’s List reports that Pandey and Choudhary are the first masters to be sanctioned since 2020. The pair could not be reached for comment.

Additionally, a Hong Kong firm, Lainey Shipping Limited, and Panama’s Louis Marine Shipholding Enterprises, have been designated for providing support to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force.

Neither company could be reached for comment. The Janet and the Bella, vessels owned by each company respectively, have also been designated.

The measures taken by OFAC mean that all US property, or property in the possession of US persons, belonging to the sanctioned parties is blocked.

Financial institutions are also prohibited from providing funds, goods or services to them and may face enforcement action if they are found to have done so.

The maritime sector has increasingly borne the brunt of the US sanctions regime following the reimposition of sanctions against Iran when President Donald Trump took office in 2017, which escalated further in the wake of Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Banks have been repeatedly warned about the potential regulatory and law enforcement repercussions of providing services for trades involving broadly sanctioned countries such as Iran, North Korea, Russia and Syria.

This article was updated on June 12th 2024 to add comment from Shark International Shipping LLC.