Economy, Business And Markets

Antwerp Port Joins Race to Forge Trade Links

Antwerp Port Joins Race to Forge Trade LinksAntwerp Port Joins Race to Forge Trade Links

A delegation from Belgium’s Port of Antwerp visited Iran in late October on a contact-building mission with officials in the shipping and commercial sectors, the latest in a long line of port and shipping companies aiming to open trade doors to take advantage of loosening sanctions.

Led by port alderman and Port Authority chairman, Marc Van Peel, the group of petrochemical and shipping experts met in Tehran with various ministries, petrochemical organizations and private companies, wrote American biweekly magazine The Journal of Commerce.

The exploratory mission was mainly aimed at making contacts with official bodies, the Belgian port said in a statement.

“Up until 2010, Antwerp was the largest European port destination for Iranian cargoes,” said Van Peel. “In the light of the recent nuclear agreement and the raising of economic sanctions, we wanted to let the Iranians know directly that Antwerp is still the ideal hub for reaching the European hinterland.”

Antwerp joins several other companies in responding to the potential opening up of a market with an 80-million-strong population, after the US and EU moves to ease sanctions following the nuclear deal reached with Tehran earlier this year.

Contship Italia, Italy’s largest container terminal operator, in August signed a strategic memorandum of understanding with Sina Port and Marine, Iran’s biggest port company. The agreement also includes Eurogate, the leading German port operator that has a 33% stake in Contship Italia.

Diego Aponte, CEO of Mediterranean Shipping Co., and Sultan bin Sulayem, chairman of DP World, the Dubai-based global container terminal operator, have also visited Iran recently.

Maersk Line has said it sees great potential in Iran, but is not expected to enter the market until the official lifting of sanctions, expected to be phased in from next year.

Hanjin Shipping and Yang Ming have added Bandar Abbas to their Asia-Middle East services, as has CMA CGM.

Most carriers deleted Iran from their networks in 2012-13 after sanctions were tightened while a few, including Wan Hai and Pacific International Lines, resumed calls at Bandar Abbas in 2014 when the restrictions were eased.

With its mission to Iran, the Antwerp Port Authority seeks to reopen trade doors with Iran. Its officials met with the head of the Ports and Maritime Organization, the head of Islamic Republic Shipping Line, the head of Iran Customs Administration and vice chairman of the Iranian Investment Organization.

The discussions covered Iran’s ambitions in shipping and commerce, as well as the role that the Port of Antwerp could play in attaining these objectives.

Meetings were also held with a number of private Iranian companies and consultancies with expert knowledge of Iran’s shipping industry, the Antwerp statement said.

The delegation concluded with a visit to Shahid Rajaei Port in Bandar Abbas and Qeshm Free Trade Zone. Shahid Rajei is the largest container port in Iran, accounting for nearly half of Iranian shipping imports.

“There is also great demand on the Iranian side for knowhow concerning port infrastructure, among other things. Port of Antwerp International and the Antwerp Flanders Port Training Center are ready to support the Iranian port community in these areas,” Van Peel said.

“In all respects, the mission was certainly successful, opening up prospects both for Iran and for our port.”