THE United Arab Shipping Company is resuming services to Iran following the lifting of Western sanctions that have removed international oil export prohibitions as well as restrictions on banking, insurance and shipping.
UASC, which suspended all Iran business in April 2013, said it would initially service Iran using smaller feeder ships via third parties that shipped containers to Iran from the United Arab Emirates.
It aimed to resume direct calls as soon as possible. UASC said prior to cutting ties, the Iranian market represented two to three per cent of the group's overall business.
Kuwait-headquartered UASC told Reuters it had "started accepting shipments to and from Iran."
"It is important to note that a number of sanctions are still in place, therefore, the ability to accept cargo to/from Iran will continue to be based on UASC's strict internal compliance check, which is in line with the international laws and applicable sanctions," it said in a statement.
With US sanctions still in place, which exclude US individuals, banks and insurers from trading with Iran, shipping and marine insurance sources say many foreign companies are likely to tread carefully.
UASC, founded in 1976 and with corporate offices in Dubai, is owned by the governments of the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Iraq. As the two biggest shareholders, Qatar holds a 51 per cent and Saudi Arabia has 35 per cent.
Saudi Arabia cut relations with Shi'ite Iran earlier this month. The crisis erupted when Saudi Arabia executed a Shi'ite cleric on January 2 and Iranian protesters retaliated by storming and setting fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran. In solidarity with Riyadh, Kuwait and Qatar pulled out their ambassadors from Tehran, and the UAE downgraded its ties.
A source close to UASC said it was business as usual despite the tensions. "Whatever makes sense commercially and whatever benefits customers are a priority. That is how UASC looks at this matter," the source was quoted as saying. "Qatar and Saudi being the largest shareholders in UASC clearly do not impact its commercial activities."
Source : HKSG.