Maersk expects to halt all Iran business


The world’s largest container shipping company Maersk Line expects to halt all of its business with Iran in the coming months, believing it will be impossible for companies that have significant business in the US to do business in the Islamic Republic once new US sanctions take full effect.

The US decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – and to re-impose tighter sanctionscomes with a wind-down period of between 90 to 180 days before the new sanctions take effect, although Maersk has already ceased acceptance of commodities under one specific category group within the US’s list of soon-to-be prohibited items, under JCPOA FAQ 1.2. iii, which lists “graphite, raw, or semi-finished metals such as aluminium and steel, coal, and software for integrating industrial processes”.

And a source close to Maersk has confirmed to Lloyd’s Loading List that the line expects, over the coming months, to shut down all of its activities in Iran. This would mean terminating the slot purchase agreements it currently has with third-party vessels from Jebel Ali to Bandar Abbas and Bushehr; ceasing to offer Iran as a destination in its network; and closing its offices in Tehran, Bandar Abbas and Bushehr.

The source noted that the timeline of Maersk’s withdrawal from Iran had yet to be determined, and the company would be monitoring and informing customers when it makes changes.

The confirmation followed comments by Maersk chief executive Soren Skou this week to Reuters, later confirmed by the company to Lloyd’s Loading List, in which he said: “With the sanctions the Americans are to impose, you can’t do business in Iran if you also have business in the US, and we have that on a large scale. I don’t know the exact timing details, but I am certain that we’re also going to shut down (in Iran).”

In official statements about its plans, Maersk said: “The United States has announced it will cease its participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and re-impose US sanctions on Iran following a wind-down period. Maersk Line will comply with this US regulation, with a timeline to be decided. We will monitor the developments during the wind-down period and keep our customers directly informed about any changes. We can also confirm that Maersk Line has ceased acceptance of commodities under 1.2. iii (JCPOA winddown FAQ).

“Our presence in Iran is limited. Maersk Line is serving its customers on the Iranian market via a feeder service using 3rd party vessels (slot purchase agreements) from Jebel Ali (UAE) to Bandar Abbas and Bushehr. Maersk Line has offices in Tehran, Bandar Abbas and Bushehr, employing a total staff of 12.”

Maersk’s conclusion that it will be forced by the new US sanctions to halt all of its business with Iran in the coming months are broadly similar to those of MSC. MSC has confirmed that it has ceased Iranian services following the US decision to withdraw from the international nuclear agreement with Iran.

In a statement issued on its website on Wednesday, MSC said it was no longer “accepting bookings for shipments originating from Iran, or destined to Iran”. The line will, however, continue to carry “certain legally acceptable cargoes during the wind-down period, notably for importation of foodstuffs”.

MSC had serviced Iran via third-party feeder ships from transhipment hubs in Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates. Like many other shipping lines, MSC had put its Iran business under review following the decision by the United States to re-impose sanctions on Tehran.

Most shipping and logistics companies appear to be currently reviewing their trading links with Iran. It was unclear at the time of writing whether European Union (EU) efforts to support EU companies that wish to continue trading with Iran will have any significant effect.