Among the enormous list of things I’ve never really thought about is what constitutes sanctions against a country. A couple of months ago we learned that “sanctions” can mean high-end shoe companies will no longer allow Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad to buy their products on-line. That’s not going to impact the nation, just her ability to compete with Imelda Marcos for the title of “First Lady with the biggest collection of shoes.” It turns out, sanctions can consist of a single piece of paper.
In order for a ship to dock in port, it must have a certificate that says the ship has complied with safety and environmental standards for international ports. No certificate, no docking. If a ship cannot dock, it cannot off-load cargo or take on cargo. One piece of paper, and a nation loses its ability to acquire goods and sell them. One powerful piece of paper and there are only a small number of companies that issue that piece of paper.
Germany’s Germanischer Lloyd has just joined Britain’s Lloyd’s Register and France’s Bureau Veritas in denying that powerful piece of paper to Iran’s biggest shipping companies, including their oil tanker companies. Germanischer Lloyd believes that continuing to certify Iranian ships is damaging to their reputation as a “credible and trustworthy organization.” Like the other two certification companies, GL was under pressure from an American group called United Against Nuclear Iran, which is funded by private donations and includes several former U. S. ambassadors on its board of directors. Continuing the certification was actually in violation of the EU’s sanctions of Iran.
So, this is what sanctions can include – denying a nation’s shipping companies a piece of paper and effectively cutting that nation’s ability to export or import. That’s kind of impressive.