Fraudulent Export of Used Cargo Ship to Iran Suspected; Osaka Company Allegedly Claimed Vessel Bound for UAE

From the website of the Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency
The cargo ship allegedly exported to Iran. Part of the image has been modified.

An Osaka-based ship trading company and related locations have been searched over suspicions that the company violated the Customs Law by falsely declaring a used cargo ship was being exported to the United Arab Emirates when it actually went to Iran.

Iran is suspected of involvement in recent militant group attacks on commercial vessels in the Hormuz Strait area. The Metropolitan Police Department is working to clarify the details of the cargo ship’s export and what it was to be used for.

The ship trading and brokerage company allegedly submitted false documents to customs around May 2021, claiming that it would export a used 499-gross-ton ship to an UAE company, according to investigative sources.

The MPD’s Public Security Bureau determined that the cargo ship traveled to an Iran port via Southeast Asia after leaving Japan, based on analysis of the ship’s location data. The Osaka company had allegedly obtained permission from the Iranian side for the export, according to sources.

The cargo ship was built in 1997 and owned by entities including the Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency, a Yokohama-based incorporated administrative agency. The Osaka ship trading company successfully bid for the vessel in April 2021, securing it for approximately ¥32 million.

According to the company’s website, it serves as an intermediary for the sale of ships to countries such as the UAE, China and Singapore.

Although exporting ships to Iran is not prohibited, trading companies are often cautious about Iran-related business, according to the Foreign Ministry, because the United States has imposed its own economic sanctions on the country over Teheran’s nuclear development program and other issues.

Israel is at odds with Iran and has accused that country, which is alleged to be involved in attacks on commercial vessels, of converting used ships into military ships by installing drones and missiles.