TOC Middle East Conference Set to take Place in Dubai
Iran’s changing place in the regional and global trade space will feature at this year’s TOC Middle East conference, taking place 6-7 December 2016 at the Le Méridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre, Dubai, UAE.
The easing of international sanctions against Iran is still expected to provide a much-needed boost to global and regional container supply chains. As the second most populous country in the Middle East, Iran’s 80 million citizens afford an opportunity for shipping lines to reconnect this important market with international trade lanes and rebuild the country’s economy after years of sanctions-induced isolation.
Iranian state shipping carrier, the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) has seen its global ranking rise following fleet investment and new service launches to Asia, Europe and the Middle East. As of October 2016, IRISL is reported as 19th largest in Clarkson Research’s list of top operator owned container shipping fleets, and 21st largest by TEU capacity in Alphaliner’s Top 100 list.
Speaking to Reuters news agency this October, IRISL Chairman and Managing Director Dr. Mohammad Saeedi, who joins TOC Middle East on December 6 as a keynote speaker in the Container Supply Chain conference, said that he expects the company to be ‘back to normal’ by mid-2017.
Deep sea carriers from around the world have also been dipping their toes in the water to gauge the true appetite for container traffic to and from Iran. Most recently this includes Maersk Line, which announced on October 20 that it will resume service to Iran after a 5-year hiatus. MSC, Maersk’s 2M alliance partner, re-entered the Iranian market back in January, while France’s CMA CGM was an early mover, re-initiating service in August 2015 and announcing a tie-up with IRISL in January. Other lines returning to the market since mid-2015 include Evergreen, China Shipping and UASC.
Iran is also pursuing inter-governmental agreements to boost trade and transport cooperation with other nations, including 6 MoUs signed this October 23 following a meeting in Tehran between Abbas Akhoundi, Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development and Germany’s Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, Alexander Dobrindt.
All this has wide implications for Iranian ports, which are clearly benefitting from the relaxation of international sanctions on a tonnage basis year-over-year, although those gains have yet to genuinely materialize for the container trade. Year-on-year to August container volumes actually fell back slightly, by 0.4 percent, to 1.67 million TEU. But this masks a surge in container traffic in recent months. The total rose by some 16 percent in August, 19.5 percent in July, and 14 percent in June, according to figures released by Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO).
Iran also sees itself as a maritime gateway for neighboring countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, and several Commonwealth of Independent States members. This should further boost throughput at the country’s major ports.