Power of Prefix: OFAC Warns Iranian Shipper’s Games


By: Anna Barone

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is issuing a special advisory to alert shippers, importers/exporters and freight forwarders to practices used by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) and companies acting on its behalf to evade U.S. and international economic sanctions. These practices, which hide the involvement of IRISL in shipping transactions, include:

  • Using container prefixes registered to another carrier
  • Omitting or listing invalid, incomplete or false container prefixes in shipping container numbers
  • Naming non-existent ocean vessels in shipping documents.

Examples of container prefixes that have been used by IRISL and either belong to another carrier or are fabricated include:

  • IRSU: (belongs to another carrier)
  • XBIU: (belongs to another carrier)
  • ALXU: (fabricated)

What Can You Do?

  • Exercise enhanced due diligence to ensure you do not unwittingly process fraudulent shipping documents or facilitate prohibited activities.
  • Look for examples of container prefixes that are registered to designated entities affiliated with IRISL, such as SBAU and HDXU
  • Note that transactions involving U.S.-sanctioned entities cannot be processed through the United States or by U.S. persons unless there is an authorization from OFAC.
  • Be alert to the presentation of fabricated vessel names in trade documents.
  • Check the bona fides of unfamiliar entities issuing shipping documents.
  • Verify the accuracy of container numbers, particularly when unfamiliar with the issuer of the shipping documents by using an internet search term such as “shipping container validation.”

Additional information available:



Comments are closed.