LONDON/VALETTA - Tightening sanctions aimed at pressuring Tehran to abandon its nuclear program threaten to drive Iran's flagship cargo shipping line out of Europe, something past efforts have failed to accomplish, a Reuters investigation shows.
Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), which carries an estimated one third of the country's dry bulk and container seaborne trade, has faced European Union sanctions for its alleged role in smuggling banned weapons, including measures implemented on July 26, 2010.
Yet since then, 23 ships have visited 12 ports in the EU a total of 149 times, according to analysis including vessel movements and port calls for a Reuters special report into Iranian shipping sanctions published on Wednesday.
These include 96 visits to Malta, 14 to Antwerp, and 10 to Rotterdam. Two EU countries also still provide what critics call "flags of convenience" to the majority of the firm's fleet.
Malta flags 48 vessels and Cyprus 12, out of a total of 144 vessels identified by the United States and the EU as IRISL vessels.
In interviews with Reuters, officials from both Malta and Cyprus indicated they will soon begin to de-register all of Iran's sanctioned fleet and review all contracts for shipping services, effectively ousting them from Europe.