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Marshall Islands official: No link to Beirut vessel

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MAJURO — A Marshall Islands official said the country’s offshore corporate registry was wrongly linked to an abandoned cargo ship at the center of attention in a massive explosion that killed over 130 people and injured thousands in Beirut last week.

International media reports said a cargo of volatile ammonium-nitrate that exploded last week had been removed from the vessel Rhosus and placed in an on-shore warehouse in the port of Beirut after the now-abandoned vessel was declared unsafe to continue its voyage by Lebanese authorities, reportedly in 2013. The vessel was linked to a Cyprus-based company Teto Shipping, Ltd. owned by Russian Igor Grechushkin, whose company was reported to be registered in the Marshall Islands.

But an official with the Trust Company of the Marshall Islands in Majuro said Teto Shipping’s registration was annulled in 2014 after the company declared bankruptcy two years after it was initially registered here.

  “A search of the Registrar’s records was performed following this incident (the explosion in Beirut) and no record of any other active entity associated with Igor Grechushkin or Teto Shipping Ltd. was found,” said Deputy Registrar of Corporations for the Trust Company of the Marshall Islands James Myazoe Tuesday.

The vessel reportedly was chartered by Teto when it was registered in the Marshall Islands between 2012 and 2014, but declared bankruptcy in 2013 sometime after the vessel was impounded by Lebanese authorities because they determined it was unseaworthy.

 “While we are aware there has been some erroneous reporting on this matter, after a search of multiple marine intelligence sites it is clear that Teto Shipping Limited was not the owner of the Rhosus,” Myazoe added. “Briarwood Corp., a Panamanian entity, owned the Rhosus.”

More than a week after the deadly explosion in Beirut, no one has been identified as the owner of the explosive cargo that produced the blast, according to media reports globally.

 Myazoe said that the Trust Company actively screens all corporations registered through a commercial database which combines national and international lists of individuals and entities of special concern, including the United States Specially Designated Nationals list, and the United Nations and European Union lists concerning individuals and entities of special concern.

 “This company (Teto) appears to have become insolvent and there were no prior warnings to the Registrar of insolvency,” he said.

The vessel was flagged with Moldova, not with the Marshall Islands, which operates the world’s second largest ship registry. Even when a company that owns vessels is registered in the Marshall Islands, if its ships are flagged by another country, that flag state is responsible for the vessels, Myazoe said.

 “By international convention, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, oversight of the safety, security, and environmental compliance of a vessel is solely the purview of the flag state,” he said. 

The non-resident domestic corporate program in the Marshall Islands “has played a major role in and has been found to be in compliance with all major international markers, including with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Financial Action Task Force, and the European Union,” said Myazoe.

In addition to screening all applicants for corporate registration, the Marshall follows the nation-based comprehensive embargoes put in place by the United States, Myazoe said, adding all corporations registered in the country are expect to follow laws of the Marshall Islands and in any country in which they carry out business. Violations are “investigated and penalties are pursued” as needed, he said.

 

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