Domestic Economy

Iranian Container Ship Heading to Europe

Iranian Container Ship Heading to Europe
Iranian Container Ship Heading to Europe

The first Iranian container ship carrying petrochemicals will dock in Europe in the coming days, managing director of the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, Mohammad Saeedi, announced on Sunday.

“This would mark the beginning of the end of Europe’s five-year embargo against Iran,” he was quoted as saying by IRNA.

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal cited informed sources as saying Iran’s biggest shipping line has planned a biweekly service connecting India, Iran and Europe.

“Thanks to the implementation of the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive plan of Action, IRISL has managed to reopen its Europe-bound shipping routes,” Saeedi said.

The last time IRISL made port calls to Europe was in 2010 through its subsidiary Hafiz Darya Shipping Company, or HDS Lines.

Executives hope the sailings will be the first step in an ambitious plan by the Iranian company to win a slice of the global container-shipping market.

Saeedi referred to recent negotiations with Germany and Italy on the establishment of a joint shipping line and said the Iranian freight ship company prepares to return to all four corners of Europe to fully tap into its transshipment potential.

“The company also intends to have regular shipments from the Persian Gulf to the ports of Latin America and later open a shipping route from East Asia to Latin America,” he added.

Last week, a container ship affiliated to IRISL berthed at South Korea’s biggest port city of Busan, marking the first time the freighter has made a call at the South Korean port since 2012.

Earlier in January, IRISL and French giant CMA CGM signed an agreement during a visit to Paris by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, which will see the two operators sharing vessels, routes and port calls.

“IRISL also plans to start calling at ports of Central America and North America with a focus on Canada,” Saeedi said.

“As we speak, IRISL’s capacity stands at 5 million deadweight tons and its fleet includes 160 vessels. Given the rise in exports to Europe, the figure is bound to increase.”

The IRISL chief noted that negotiations are underway for the purchase of container ships such as Triple E container vessel, which is the largest class of container ships in the world.

"Talks have been held with local and foreign shipmakers, including those from European countries, South Korea and China,” he said.

According to Saeedi, annual seaborne trade between the European Union and Iran amounted to $15 billion before the first broad, international sanctions were imposed on the country in 2008.

Tehran expects to reach that level within three years.

> MoUs With 3 Countries

IRISL was a power in the global shipping industry before the imposition of anti-Iran sanctions. In order to reclaim its past glory and forge ahead with its development plans, the shipping line has recently signed a memorandum of understanding each with Kazakhstan, Switzerland and Germany.

An agreement on development of Iran’s Incheh Borun dry port, a container terminal in Bandar Abbas and Kazakhstan’s port of Aktau was signed by governmental shipping companies of the two neighboring countries on Saturday.

The two sides pledged to finalize the draft of a roadmap on opening a joint shipping line by mid-March. The shipping line is expected to increase economic exchanges between Iran and the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States Organization.

Also, the Swiss Mediterranean Shipping Company, a global leader in container shipping, has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development for investment in the construction of marine terminals in Iran’s Bandar Abbas Port, Mehr News Agency reported on Sunday, citing Deputy Transport Minister Asghar Fakhrie Kashan.

The deal was signed during Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann’s visit to Tehran at the head of a business delegation. MSC is a privately-owned global organization operating in 150 countries.

Moreover, a joint venture between IRISL and German shipping company PWL will commence in March as part of a memorandum of understanding signed during a visit by IRISL managing director to Hamburg.

Based on the MoU, IRISL will enjoy a number of services in the ports of European countries, including Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.

In a message to the Third International Conference on Persian Gulf Oceanography on Saturday, Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi said marine economy accounts for as little as 2% of Iran's GDP.

“This comes as transactions carried out through seas should be raised by three to four times. Recent years have seen marine economy generate over $1,000 billion, whereas Iran’s share is less than 1% of this figure,” he said.