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Committee Advances Senators Hassan & Lankford’s Bipartisan Bill to Crack Down on Ships Evading International Sanctions

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Also Advances Additional Hassan-Backed Bills

WASHINGTON – The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee recently voted to pass a bipartisan bill introduced by Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), chair of the Emerging Threats and Spending Oversight Subcommittee, and Senator James Lankford (R-OK) to crack down on ships disabling and spoofing their transponder equipment to evade export controls and international sanctions, including sanctions against Russia. 

Shipping vessels are equipped with Automatic Identification Systems that publicly transmit their current location. As detailed in a recent New York Times investigation, ships seeking to evade sanctions on Russian and Iranian oil will turn off their transponders and spoof location data to avoid detection. Senators Hassan and Lankford’s Vessel Tracking for Sanctions Enforcement Act will create a pilot program within the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center, to use advanced data analysis to identify these ships that are propping up foreign adversaries.

“After Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the United States led its allies in imposing a series of sanctions on Vladimir Putin and his regime,” said Senator Hassan. “Effective sanctions require strict enforcement, and this bipartisan legislation empowers Customs and Border Protection to use every tool at its disposal to find and stop any evaders. By using advanced analytics to quickly identify suspect vessels, the U.S. can better prevent illicit shipments into Russia and impede the Russian government from replenishing its foreign currency reserves.”

“The Iranian regime continues to evade international detection efforts as they sneak their oil on shipping vessels to nations like China and Russia against US sanctions,” said Senator Lankford. “We should support Customs and Border Protection and other federal agencies as they set up new, innovative methods to find and detect illicit items. We can and should keep bad actors from hiding their shipments and evading vessel identification efforts.”

In addition to the bipartisan Vessel Tracking for Sanctions Enforcement Act, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced bipartisan bills that Senator Hassan led on:

  • The Recognizing the Role of Direct Support Professionals Act, which Senator Hassan introduced, helps address the critical need for more Direct Support Professionals in the workforce. Direct Support Professionals assist individuals who experience disabilities with fully participating in their communities and encourage their independence.
  • The Legacy IT Reduction Act, which Senator Hassan introduced, takes steps to update outdated government IT systems, reducing reliance on obsolete federal agency technology – helping reduce costs, strengthen cybersecurity, and improve customer experience for taxpayers.
  • The Federal Cybersecurity Workforce Expansion Act, which Senator Hassan introduced with Senator Cornyn, improves cybersecurity workforce development by establishing two pilot programs: a cybersecurity apprenticeship program and a cybersecurity training program for veterans.
  • The Grant Transparency Act of 2023, which Senator Hassan helped introduce, would require government agencies to provide competitive grant applicants with more information about selection criteria and evaluation processes.

The one-pager on the Vessel Tracking for Sanctions Enforcement Act is here, and the bill text is here.