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Lankford & Hassan’s Bill to Crack Down on Ships Evading International Sanctions Advances

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK –The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee recently voted to pass a bipartisan bill introduced by Senator James Lankford (R-OK) and Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) to crack down on ships disabling and spoofing their transponder equipment to evade export controls and international sanctions, including sanctions againstIran and Russia. 

Shipping vessels are equipped with Automatic Identification Systems that publicly transmit their current location. As detailed in a recent New York Times investigation, ships seeking to evade sanctions on Russian and Iranian oil will turn off their transponders and spoof location data to avoid detection. Lankford and Hassan’s Vessel Tracking for Sanctions Enforcement Act will create a pilot program within the US Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center, to use advanced data analysis to identify these ships that are propping up foreign adversaries.

“The Iranian regime continues to evade international detection efforts as they sneak their oil on shipping vessels to nations like China and Russia against US sanctions,” said Lankford. “We should support Customs and Border Protection and other federal agencies as they set up new, innovative methods to find and detect illicit items. We can and should keep bad actors from hiding their shipments and evading vessel identification efforts.”

“After Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the United States led its allies in imposing a series of sanctions on Vladimir Putin and his regime,” said Hassan. “Effective sanctions require strict enforcement, and this bipartisan legislation empowers Customs and Border Protection to use every tool at its disposal to find and stop any evaders. By using advanced analytics to quickly identify suspect vessels, the US can better prevent illicit shipments into Russia and impede the Russian government from replenishing its foreign currency reserves.”

Lankford is a co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Abraham Accords Caucus, and earlier this year, he introduced two bills countering Iran’s global aggression. The Deterring Iranian Support for Russia in Ukraine and Pre-empting Terrorism (DISRUPT) Act puts pressure on Iran for their military partnership with Russia, and the Sanctioning Transfers and Outbound Products to (STOP) Iran Act will prevent American products from enabling Iranian terrorism.