* Pressure is mounting on Iran's global oil carrier fleet
* Western sanctions target Iran's nuclear program
By Richard Valdmanis
DAKAR, Sept 8 Sierra Leone has removed nine
vessels from its shipping register after an investigation found
they belonged to IRISL, Iran's embattled shipping line, the head
of the West African state's maritime authority said on Saturday.
The move comes as Western powers seek to ground Iran's
global oil carrier fleet by urging countries to deny their flags
to Iranian ships, part of a broader push to curb Tehran's
nuclear program with economic sanctions.
"The vessels were deleted as a result of the fact that the
companies that registered the said vessels were actually
subsidiaries owned and controlled by IRISL," Acting Executive
Director of the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration Wurroh
Jalloh told Reuters in an email.
He said four vessels - Alva, Amin, Tour and Benita - were
removed from the register late last week and that five others
had been deleted since the end of August. He did not give
Iran has been trying to reflag its ships in an attempt to
avoid Western sanctions aimed at choking off its oil exports,
prompting the United States to pressure countries around the
world to refuse any such requests.
In mid-August, Tanzania announced it was de-registering 36
Iranian vessels and dropping the Dubai-based shipping agent it
said had flagged them without the east African government's
Reflagging ships masks their ownership, which could make it
easier for Iran to obtain insurance and financing for cargoes
and to find buyers for shipments without attracting the
attention of the United States and the European Union.
The United States has a longstanding ban on imports of
Iranian oil and has imposed new economic sanctions that have
curbed Iranian oil imports by most other major nations.
The EU banned Iranian oil imports on July 1 and barred EU
firms from transporting Iranian crude or insuring such
(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Andrew Osborn)