NITC Seeks Stronger Ties With Panama

NITC Seeks Stronger Ties With PanamaNITC Seeks Stronger Ties With Panama

The National Iranian Tanker Company is ready to expand cooperation with Panama to bolster its worldwide operations, NITC's chief executive director said.

"We are ready for cooperation with Panama in different areas, such as ship registration and flagging as well as registration of companies," Ali Akbar Safaei was quoted as saying by Shana.

Safaei made the statement after meeting Jorge Barakat Pitty, Panama's minister of maritime affairs and administrator of Panama Maritime Authority, in Tehran Monday.

Panama is a geopolitically important nation in the global marine industry. It connects the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, one of the world's most important marine trade routes.

With a population of only 3 million, the small Central American country has the largest shipping fleet in the world, larger than those of the US and China combined. About 8,600 ships fly the Panamanian flag. By comparison, the US has around 3,400 registered vessels and China just over 3,700.

Under the sanctions regime, Iranian tankers had to sail under different flags, mostly African such as Tanzania, to avoid western penalties, according to Mehr News Agency.

Malta, reportedly another one of the most accommodating flags to sail under, cut ties with Iran after the US and the EU slammed more sanctions against Iran in 2012 for its nuclear program.

Panama can play a key role in facilitating the voyage of tankers carrying Iran's crude in international waters, including NITC's own crude carriers rented to foreign contractors after the lifting of sanctions.

Iran has vowed to ramp up crude exports to levels last seen in 2010, following its nuclear accord with six world powers in July 2015 and its implementation in January. In doing so, it hopes to secure a stable supply to Brazil–the world's eighth-largest total energy consumer.

In addition, Panama can help Iran with flagging its large fleet of tankers and very large crude carriers, a measure that would help ease regulatory complications and reduce operating costs.

Panama's flag offers the advantages of easier registration and the ability to employ less expensive foreign labor for tasks such as offloading crude oil and cleaning the vessels.

Iran, currently the third-largest producer of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, has pledged to raise crude export following

Iran boasts the world's largest fleet of supertankers, having 42 VLCCs. It also has the world's 21st largest tanker fleet ahead of regional rival Saudi Arabia as well as Qatar, Oman and the UAE, according to the United Nations' 2015 Maritime Transport report.