Recent seizures and attacks aimed at oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz will raise insurance rates for shipping companies and, if unchecked, reduce tanker traffic in the vital waterway, according to energy experts.Britain’s foreign secretary said Iranian authorities on Friday seized two ships, one flying under the British flag, the other registered in Liberia. The events occurred in a passageway that carries one-fifth of the world’s crude exports.“If this kind of problem continues, you might see people start to shy away from the (Persian) Gulf or try to reflag — not be a British tanker,” said energy economist Michael Lynch.The near-term impact will fall most heavily on the shipping industry in the form of higher insurance rates, said Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research Inc.Richard Nephew, a Columbia University researcher who wrote a book on sanctions, also believes the tanker seizures could create “a real risk premium” for companies that operate in the Gulf and insurers that underwrite them.“Certainly we’ve seen concern with this in the past on sanctions grounds, and I would imagine security groups would be a far more complicating element,” Nephew said.On Friday, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said it took the British tanker Stena Impero to an Iranian port because it allegedly violated international shipping regulations. An Iranian news agency said the Liberian-flagged Mesdar was briefly detained and then released after being told to comply with environmental rules.The seizures marked a sharp escalation of tension in the region that began rising when the Trump administration withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and imposed severe restrictions on Iranian oil exports and other sanctions.Many of the 2,000 companies operating ships in the region have ordered their vessels to transit the Strait of Hormuz only during the daylight hours and at high speed. But only a handful of the companies have halted bookings.The tensions in the Gulf also pushed oil prices slightly higher. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 0.9% to $62.47 a barrel on Friday, while benchmark U.S. crude gained 0.6% to settle at $55.63.There’s a long history of shippers enduring threats in the region.“There have always been little problems around the Gulf where people will say, ‘You’re in our territorial waters,’ but usually that doesn’t go so far as the seizure of tankers,” Lynch said.David Koenig, The Associated Press
In a news release, the UN Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories said that during its fact-finding visit to Amman, Jordan, its members heard testimony on the expansion of settlements, the ongoing use of administrative detention, excessive use of force and possible extrajudicial killings, and lack of accountability.“Based on this testimony, the Committee clearly observed that the Israeli authorities continue with policies and practices that negatively impact the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” it said in the release. The Committee also heard troubling testimony regarding the arrest and detention of children, including cases of reported ill-treatment and lack of adequate protection. Other testimony described grave concern over the situation of Palestinian detainees reportedly living in difficult conditions in Israeli prisons, as well as the continued use of administrative detention. Other issues raised included the effects of the separation wall on Palestinians’ rights, and the demolition of homes and other structures in the West Bank including East Jerusalem, as well as in the Syrian Golan. The use of punitive demolitions in the West Bank including East Jerusalem was described as a form of collective punishment. Many organizations highlighted with concern the continued lack of accountability for allegations of excessive use of force and violations of international law by the Israeli forces, including during the 2014 hostilities in Gaza. A number of organizations emphasized that the lack of accountability further exacerbated the cycle of violence. Human rights defenders and journalists seeking to highlight violations of human rights and humanitarian law told the Committee that the space in which they were free to operate was shrinking at an alarming rate. They reported cases of the detention of peaceful demonstrators and the targeting of journalists covering protests. The news release also noted that the Government of Israel does not recognize the Committee, which was therefore unable to speak to the relevant Israeli authorities or access the occupied territories. The Committee will submit a full report on its mission and other activities to the UN General Assembly in November 2017. The Committee was established by the UN General Assembly in December 1968 to examine the human rights situation in the occupied Syrian Golan, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. It is composed of three UN Member States: Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Senegal.