An article published by the Global Trade Review titled, "Vessel identity laundering: an emerging threat to maritime trade", highlights that criminals are fraudulently obtaining vessel registration numbers to evade sanctions on maritime trade.  

C4ADS, a non-profit organisation focused on transnational security issues research, discovered that sanctions evasion operations have found a way to trick the IMO into issuing a seemingly new and legitimate identity for a vessel, where in reality no such new vessel exists. It refers to this fresh registration as a “shell identity”. In order to understand identity laundering, it’s important to be familiar with the three core elements that make up a vessel’s identity. C4ADS defines these as registered, digital, and physical. 

Windward also published an article on this subject, noting that identity laundering challenges standard compliance measures and regulations. Furthermore, this practice makes use of advanced tools to confound the ability to verify the true identity of a vessel. Given this complexity, Windward follows a vessel’s entity over time regardless of transmitted changes. Its solution leverages all three aspects of a vessel’s identity – registry information from providers, digital data from the best AIS coverage in the market, and physical information via satellite imagery.  

Ince has combined its legal and consultancy advice with Windward’s world’s leading maritime predictive intelligence to be able to assist you in managing trade finance activity risk. More information on the InceMaritime sanctions solution can be found here.

Please note this article was written by Annette Fong, who is no longer with Ince. If you would like any advice in this regard, please contact Julia Dao.