Though the new U.S. sanctions against Iran are yet to
bring out the kind of impact they may have on the shipping, the shipping
operators have already started moving away from Iran. Denmark’s Maersk Line and
Mediterranean Shipping Co., have reacted to the sanctions saying they were
winding down general cargo shipments and tanker owners too have said they plan
to move their vessels to other oil-producing countries in the Middle East or
“I don’t think
any shipping line that operates globally will be able to do business in Iran if
the sanctions arrive in full force, the way they are intended,” said Soren
Skou, Maersk’s chief executive.
Maersk and MSC have been moving everything from
electronics and household goods to food and heavy machinery to Iran. Mr. Skou
said Maersk’s Iran operations are small, but with an Iranian population of 80
million, carriers heralded the lifting of earlier sanctions in 2016 as the
opening of an important Middle East trade destination, according to Dow Jones.
The Trump administration has given the industry until
early November to end operations in Iran, which exported a record 2.6 million
barrels of crude a day in April. The sanctions also will affect ship-insurance
premiums, lines of credit for moving cargo, and ship-fuel suppliers.
Pulling Iran off the service map for crude carriers
will be a blow to the world’s tanker operators. Shipowners in that sector have
suffered from a glut of global capacity and now will see the world’s
fifth-biggest oil producer removed from their market. Iran accounts for 5% of
global output and the majority of Iran’s oil is exported to China, Japan, India
and South Korea.
Shipowners in China, which currently buys roughly
650,000 barrels of Iranian crude a day, said they expect Iran’s total daily
crude shipments to drop by more than half.
“We won’t dare to risk any violations as we also have
a bulk of our business involving shipping oil between the U.S. to the Far
East,” said a senior executive of a China state-owned oil-shipping major, who
asked not to be named. “What concerns us is that our ships won’t be able to
sail to the U.S.”
The carriers that will hurt the most are Iran’s two
state-owned firms, National Iranian Tanker Co. and Islamic Republic of Iran
A spokesman for NITC, which operates around 5% of the
world’s tanker fleet, including 38 very large crude carriers, or VLCCs, said it
was too early to comment on the sanctions. But people involved in the matter
said NITC may mothball some of its VLCCs and use them as “floating storage” in
view of rising oil prices.
IRISL, which operates about 120 container ships,
dry-bulk carriers and chemical tankers, has been looking to replace its aging
fleet and join the world’s big shipping alliances.
It has placed orders for four container ships and six
chemical tankers with South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. Ltd., worth
about $650 million, according to people involved in the deal.
IRISL is considering whether to ask Hyundai Heavy to
speed up deliveries before the sanctions go into effect, delay or cancel the
orders, according to people familiar with the matter.
didn’t respond to requests for comment.
“The U.S. sanctions create a very challenging
environment for shipowners, ” said Basil Karatzas, a New York-based shipping
consultant, who works with some of the world’s biggest shipping companies.
“They could be blacklisted for moving Iranian crude or other cargo, fined and
prohibited from doing business with the U.S. It’s not worth the risk.”