The Hong Kong government said in a statement released by the city’s spokesperson for the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau that it has “strictly” implemented United Nations Security Council sanctions, which don’t impose “any restrictions on the export of petroleum from Iran.”
“Certain countries may impose unilateral sanctions against certain places on the basis of their own considerations. Those sanctions are outside the scope of the UN Security Council sanctions” implemented by Hong Kong, the statement reads.
The oil tanker, the Pacific Bravo, is owned by China’s Bank of Kunlun, according to a senior US official cited by Gulf News. Reuters reported in October that the bank — once Beijing’s major channel for transactions with Iran — would stop handling such payments due to sanctions pressure. According to Reuters, a tanker in violation of US sanctions unloaded close to 130,000 tons of Iranian fuel oil into storage tanks near the eastern Chinese city of Zhoushan, and that the Pacific Braco could be one of the tankers involved in a ship-to-ship transfers scheme used by Iran to sidestep American sanctions on petroleum exports.
While the US official said the tanker is heading to Hong Kong, ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg shows a vessel called the Pacific Bravo off the coast of Sri Lanka and labels Indonesia as its next stop. According to the official cited by Bloomberg, it is imperative that Hong Kong authorities prevent the vessel from docking or allowing local entities from providing services to ships that might misrepresent themselves in order to avoid exposing themselves to sanctions violations.
Hong Kong’s Marine Department also said on Wednesday that it “has no information showing if the respective vessel will enter or pass by Hong Kong waters.”
The Trump administration has taken a belligerent stance on Iran, pulling out of the hard-fought 2015 nuclear deal and imposing economic sanctions on the oil-rich country, targeting, among others, the fuel sector. Trump said the rationale is to pressure Iran into a new nuclear deal because the existing agreement has allegedly failed to stop the country from pursuing nuclear weapons development.