Economy, Domestic Economy

IRISL Assumes Key Role in Iran’s Int’l Reconnection

Hamburg’s Minister of Economy Frank Horch (L), IRISL Chief Mohammad Saeidi (C) and Schleswig-Holstein’s Minister of Economic Affairs Reinhard Meyer met in Tehran earlier this month. (File Photo)
Hamburg’s Minister of Economy Frank Horch (L), IRISL Chief Mohammad Saeidi (C) and Schleswig-Holstein’s Minister of Economic Affairs Reinhard Meyer met in Tehran earlier this month. (File Photo)

The presentation was as professional as that of a western company.

In its promotional movie clip, the state-owned Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines was shown to be a modern, fully-integrated shipping company with container carriers and tankers, offshore suppliers and ferries, shipyards and ship insurance companies, reads an article published by German newspaper Die Welt.

Below is the translation of the full text.

“We have no restrictions that could prevent us from entering into cooperation ventures with German companies,” said IRISL CEO Mohammad Saeidi after the presentation of his company at its Tehran headquarters. “And we are concentrating on Hamburg as a center for our business in Northern Europe.”

Some 30 participants sat in front of flat screen monitors around an elliptical conference table at IRISL, including the top management of the shipping company and the visiting economic delegation of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein.

The mission from Northern Germany, comprising a group of 60 representatives from the fields of politics, economics and science, was led by Hamburg’s Minister of Economy, Transport and Innovation Frank Horch and Schleswig-Holstein’s Minister of Economic Affairs Reinhard Meyer.

Representatives of the maritime industry included those from the Hamburg metropolitan region, the terminal operator Eurogate, the classification group DNV GL, the HHLA subsidiary Hamburg Port Consulting, as well as the shipyards Blohm + Voss and Pella Sietas.

Shipping and port management were the main focus of the two German ministers’ visit.

  Iranian Ships to Call on Hamburg Harbor More Often

In the international ranking for container shipping lines, IRISL is only ranked 19th. However, the shipping company, with a total of 156 freighters, tankers and ferries, is a key player in Iran’s efforts to reconnect with the European economy.

Saeidi also has political weight, as he was part of the Iranian delegation engaged in nuclear talks with the West.

During the years of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, Iranian ships were not welcome in European ports. Iran instead organized its foreign trade mainly with China. There, international regulations against the Islamic Republic were not observed so closely.

In 2015, Iran imported from China goods worth about $18 billion. This is while German exports stood at $2.3 billion in that year. Germany’s imports from Iran were only a few hundred million dollars.

It’s now business as usual, though.

“The IRISL is calling once again on Hamburg with container ships,” says Christian Koopmann from the Hamburg Maritime service PWL, whose company represents the Iranian line for 20 years in Germany.

“We hope that the two-weekly schedule for the IRISL vessel will be upgraded in the foreseeable future to run on a weekly basis.”

The container ships from IRISL go to Eurogate in Hamburg. So far, there are only small freighters with a maximum capacity of 2,500 container units.

Germany exports machinery, vehicles, chemical products, agricultural products, electronic devices, textile, food products and chemicals to Iran from its largest seaport, Hamburg’s C. Steinweg Terminal.

  New Strategic Transport Corridors in Asia

More important than the shipping company IRISL perhaps is Iran’s upgrading of its ports and hinterland connections. The government in Tehran is concerned not only with self-sufficiency, but also with participation in the strategic transport corridors of the future.

While China is pushing for the construction of a “New Silk Road” to connect East Asia to Europe by water and land, India is expanding its routes to Central Asia. Iran wants to be involved in both developments.

A total of 11 ports are owned by the state port administration Ports and Maritime Organization. A further three are operated by the private sector. The most important state-administered port in Iran is Bandar Abbas in the Persian Gulf.

At present, some 1.8 million container units are handled there per year; in Hamburg, it was around 8.8 million TEUs in 2015.

Container handling in Bandar Abbas could rise rapidly in the coming years, provided the economic opening up of the country takes place. Two container terminals already work there, a third is planned.

“As a partner of the Iranian port company Sina, we are working on the expansion and operation of Container Terminal 2 in Bandar Abbas and the operation of Terminal 1,” says Marcel Egger, CFO of Eurogate, a terminal operator based in Hamburg and Bremen. “Iran … has enormous potential in the expansion of its container handling.”

Terminal 2 alone, whose modernization Eurogate plans to take part in, is expected to have four million TEU transshipment capacity. However, other international heavyweights such as Dubai Ports or Hutchison from Hong Kong are also applying for expansion in Bandar Abbas.

It is also not yet clear who will finance the equipment, such as the new, large container bridges for the future operation of Terminal 2, says Egger.

German logistics and transportation company HHLA also explores the situation in Iran, through its subsidiary HPC. Six years ago, the German group, had a bad experience with the Iranian business.

At that time, HPC wanted to participate in a development project in Bandar Abbas. Following international pressure, especially from Hamburg Senate, HHLA was forced to give up the project. Now it hopes for better conditions.

“We are trying to find out,” says HPC manager Felix Kasiske, “what business prospects we have here.”

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