Zanzibar — ZANZIBAR government has categorically dismissed as fabricated recent press reports that it had registered ten Iranian oil tankers in efforts to dodge international sanctions by carrying Tanzanian flags.
"These reports from the press including the international news agency Bloomberg, and the local newspaper 'The Citizen' are not true," Mr Hamad Masoud Hamad, the minister for communications and infrastructure read the statement in the House on Friday.
He said to further clear the reports, his ministry would work with relevant authorities to call for explanation from the editors of the papers "because these reports aim at tarnishing the image of Zanzibar internationally and also endangers our relations with shipping companies globally."
The Zanzibar minister expressed disappointment with recent statements made by his counterpart Dr Harrison Mwakyembe also in the Union Parliament in Dodoma about Zanzibar's position to register international ships. "Maritime business and shipping is not union matter, we have all the rights to register ships. The Zanzibar Maritime Authority (ZMA) has so far registered 366 vessels including international oil-tankers, cargo, passenger, and general cargo since 2009," Hamad said.
He said this month ZMA through its 'Tanzania-Zanzibar Registrar of Shipping for coastal ships has registered (open registry) 11 oil-tankers from Malta and Cyprus, and not from Iran. "Philtex Company of Dubai is the agent of the shipping companies and it's said that it had no relations with Iran."
According to the minister, the recently registered tankers in Zanzibar, with their capacity in brackets as: Daisy (GRT-81479), Daisy Shipping Co. Ltd from Malta; Justice (GRT-164241)- of Justice Shipping Co. Ltd from Cyprus; Magnolia (GRT, 81479) of Magnolia Shipping Co. Ltd from Malta; and Lantana (GRT, 81479) of Lantana Shipping Co. Ltd from Malta.
Others include Leadership (GRT, 164241) of Leadership Shipping Co. Ltd from Cyprus; Companion (GRT, 164241) of Companion Shipping Co. Ltd from Malta; Camellia (GRT, 81479) of Camellia Shipping Co. Ltd from Malta; Clove (GRT, 81479) of Clove shipping Co. Ltd from Malta; Courage (GRT, 163660) of Courage Shipping Co. Ltd from Cyprus; Freedom (GRT, 163660) of Freedom shipping Co. Ltd from Cyprus; and Valor (GRT, 160930) of the Valor Shipping Co. Ltd from Cyprus.
The minister said Zanzibar was empowered by Zanzibar Maritime Transport Act 2006, Section 8 (1): "There shall be established the registers of Tanzania Zanzibar ships to be known as:-(a). Tanzania Zanzibar International Register of Shipping for ocean going ships; and (b) Tanzania Zanzibar Register of Shipping for coastal Ships. And a ship shall be a Tanzania Zanzibar ship for the purpose of this Act if that ship is registered under this part."
Hamad said after the press reports, the Philtex company had threatened to de-register from Zanzibar. "All ships registered in Zanzibar carry the United Republic of Tanzania flag, but if it is a problem, we may ask the ships to switch to Zanzibar flag."
The Zanzibar Minister of State (Second Vice- President), Mr Mohammed Aboud Mohammed, also said that vessels registered have to wave Tanzania flag because "Zanzibar and Tanzania mainland are two countries having the rights over the union flag."
Legislator Mr Ismail Jussa Ladu (CUF- Mjimkongwe) had previously asked the government to issue a statement about the 'damaging' press reports. Mr Mshimba Makame Mbarouk (CCM-Kitope), and Mr Mahmoud Muhammed Mussa (CCM-Kikwajuni) also expressed their concerns about the report.
It was reported last Wednesday that an oil tanker company known as NITC, owned by the Iranian Pension Fund, has renamed at least 10 of its vessels and switched to the Tanzanian flag. Authorities in the union government: Mwakyembe, and Mr Bernard Membe -- foreign minister were quoted as being shocked with the news and that they would conduct investigation to establish the truth.
Bloomberg reported that NITC renamed five of its very large crude carriers, each holding about two million barrels of oil, and five Suezmaxes with a capacity for one million barrels. The Equasis shipping database was quoted by the international news that ownership of the ships was switched from NITC to new companies operating from the same address in Tehran. NITC remains the operator, though; all the ships were previously registered in Malta or Cyprus.
This development comes a few days after a comprehensive European embargo was slapped on Iranian crude exports, which starts next Monday. It will extended to restriction in insuring vessels that carry the oil. The US and Europe plan to impose the embargo on Iranian crude oil export comes amid fears that Iran nuclear programme is aimed at developing atomic weapons.