STOCKHOLM Jan 30 Iranian traffickers,
trying to dodge an embargo imposed by Western nations over
Iran's nuclear programme, are smuggling weapons on container
ships owned by firms from the countries that imposed the
sanctions, a think-tank said on Monday.
Before 2008, when the United Nations toughened arms
embargoes on Iran, the majority of arms and dual-use goods
shipments to and from Iran were being transported aboard Iranian
ships, or ships chartered by Iranian companies, it said.
"By using respectable mainstream European shipping companies
in countries such as Germany and France, they make them their
unwitting accomplices," said Hugh Griffiths, a researcher at the
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Container shipping companies generally cannot verify the
cargo they transport in the sealed containers.
The owners of the vessels appear to have been unaware of the
nature of the illicit cargo, said SIPRI, which conducts
independent research on international security, armaments and
The international community's biggest concern is the
smuggling of items that Iran might use for any production of
nuclear weapons - which the West suspects is the goal of Iran's
nuclear enrichment programme. Tehran says the programme is for
purely peaceful purposes.
"What has been seized and is in our report is just the tip
of the iceberg," said Griffiths.
"Like the Colombian cocaine cartels, they have in recent
years come under increased pressure from a legal framework that
allows their cargoes to be seized. So they have started to use
ships which have no suspect profile," said Griffiths.
SIPRI said governments should discuss with the shipping
industry ways of tackling the growing use of container shipping
"We suggest there should be more information sharing between
the shipping industry and governments, because the shipping
industry has a lot of valuable and currently untapped
information - particularly ship security officers and the
captains of certain ships," Griffiths said.
CMA CGM, the world's third-largest container shipping group,
said in November it had stopped export shipments from Iran and
was scanning all containers bound for the country.
(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Alison Williams and