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Trade Sanctions

Lawyers helping clients overcome the impact of trade regulations

HFW's international trade regulation practice advises clients on, and resolves issues related to, the impact of regulations mandated by the European Union and World Trade Organization. Our primary objective is to help clients overcome commercial obstacles related to market access and import and export-related difficulties that result from government intervention and market regulations worldwide

Video: International trade sanctions: how to keep your business safe

HFW sanctions expert Daniel Martin outlines the four key issues all businesses must consider in order to stay in front of this rapidly changing area of law – and avoid the potentially severe penalties for getting it wrong.

Global Sanctions Risk Map

Global Sanctions Risk

Sanctions assessment as at 9 December 2022

What we do in Trade Sanctions

We regularly advise on the sanctions regimes introduced internationally against countries such as Iran, Russia, Syria, Sudan and Cuba. Our advice focuses on sanctions adopted at UN, US, EU, UK, UAE, French, Swiss and Australian levels, and we regularly co-ordinate advice from other jurisdictions such as South Korea, Bermuda and Singapore.

We also advise on payment issues with respect to sanctions and appropriate contractual protection. We prepare bespoke clauses and/or advise on the effect of clauses prepared by others or industry standard clauses. We have also advised clients on disputes involving sanctions, including recent litigation in the UK Court of Appeal on the prohibition of insurance provisions of the EU sanctions against Iran.

We have excellent contacts within the key regulators, including HM Treasury (responsible for financial sanctions) and the Export Control Organisation (responsible for export controls and product-related sanctions) in the UK. We also have contacts with the US State Department, who invited us to host a round-table consultative discussion with senior US Government officials in London, following enactment of US extra-territorial sanctions.

Our experience in Trade Sanctions

Our trade sanctions practice is very active. We provide below some examples of our work in this area.

  • Advising in UK High Court proceedings on the validity of insurance cover provided by a UK P&I Club for liabilities for bunker oil pollution, in the context of EU sanctions against Iran.
  • Representing a policyholder in UK Court of Appeal proceedings on the prohibition of insurance provisions of the EU sanctions against Iran.
  • Representing a Singaporean company on submissions to the European Council and European Court of Justice following listing as an asset freeze target under the EU sanctions against Iran.
  • Advice "hotlines" for insurers, brokers and assureds, including Russia, P&I clubs and their members on the impact of sanctions against Iran, Russia, Syria and other countries on operations, cover, policy wording, etc.
  • Advising various commodity traders and banks on the effect of sanctions on commercial transactions and investments, in a wide range of regimes, including on payment issues and payments into frozen accounts.
  • Making applications for authorisation for payments to and from Iranian persons under the EU sanctions against Iran.
  • Advice for a wide range of shipping, commodities and aviation clients which are trading with Russia advising on whether their intended transactions comply with EU and US sanctions, including sectoral sanctions
  • Advising on the impact of EU restrictions on the supply of oil and gas equipment to Russia.
  • Advising counterparties of Rusal and related entities on the terms of the US licences which authorise trade with Rusal (etc).
  • Advising non-Russian entities on the impact of EU and US sanctions on their Russian subsidiaries
  • Advising a major Middle Eastern shipowner on the impact of US, EU, UK and Australian sanctions against Iran, on a project for purchasing and chartering Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs).
  • Preparing sanctions clauses for contracts of a major Australian commodity exporter.
  • Advising a major oil company on sanctions against Iran and Syria.

Daniel Martin is the author of the chapter on UK sanctions in the International Comparative Legal Guides – Sanctions 2021. Please click  here to access the chapter.

Recent Sanctions Briefings and Articles

What’s in store for 2024: Will the creation of ‘OTSI’ usher in a new era of UK sanctions enforcement?

The UK Government has announced the creation of the Office of Trade Sanctions Implementation (OTSI) in an effort to clamp down on sanctions evasion and strengthen enforcement. As the UK, alongside its international partners, continues to implement strict sanctions measures on Russia, the commitment of resources to a department focusing specifically on enforcement across all UK trade sanctions regimes signals an appetite for an increase in UK enforcement action.

Click here to read more

What’s in store for 2024 - Russian Sanctions

It has now been almost two years since Russia illegally invaded Ukraine. What was expected by Russia to be an easy win has now become a war of attrition in an environment in which Western sanctions against Russia have continued to evolve in scope and complexity.

Click here to read more

Sanctions clauses in LOUs and Obligations under Collision Jurisdiction Agreements (M/V Pacific Pearl Co Ltd v Osios David Shipping Inc)

In M/V Pacific Pearl v Osios David, the High Court has held that an LOU containing a sanctions clause was in a ‘reasonably satisfactory form’ where there was an ‘Iranian nexus’, but that the recipient of the LOU was not obliged to accept it either by an express or implied term of the CJA.

Click  here to read more

ECJ clarifies scope of EU Blocking Regulation and requirement not to comply with US secondary sanctions

In a significant judgment, the ECJ has confirmed that Article 5 of the EU Blocking Regulation may found a civil claim from parties affected by such compliance. Where there is a prima facie case that a party has acted in order to comply with US extra-territorial sanctions, the onus will shift to the party seeking to defend such a claim to show that they did not act to comply with such sanctions. This makes walking the tightrope between the EU Blocking Regulation and US secondary sanctions all the more difficult.

Click  here to read more

English Court of Appeal decision: US secondary sanctions are a “mandatory provision of law”

In Lamesa Investments Limited v Cynergy Bank Limited1, the English Court of Appeal has confirmed that US secondary sanctions fall within the common wording “mandatory provision of law” and that Cynergy was complying with them when it withheld payment under a loan facility agreement.

Click  here to read more

UK goes it alone: The UK’s new human rights sanctions regime

The UK’s exit from the European Union will allow the UK to pursue its own sanctions policy. This development has been hailed by politicians, with Dominic Raab announcing measures targeting those responsible for or involved in serious violations of human rights, and saying that “Global Britain will be an even stronger force for good in the world, in the years ahead”. However, businesses will be forgiven for thinking that another set of regulations just means another set of headaches and compliance challenges.

Click  here to read more

Maritime arbitrators: practical steps to manage your sanctions risk

Shipping is currently in the centre of the sanctions spotlight – that is abundantly clear from recent US enforcement action, as well as public statements by US politicians.

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EU Sanctions Authorities Start to Show Their Teeth

On 31 March 2020, the UK's Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) announced that the Economic Secretary to the Treasury had upheld the decision to impose two fines on Standard Chartered Bank for breaching EU financial sanctions on Sberbank and its former subsidiary Denizbank A.S.

Click  here to read more

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