Port of Antwerp looks to mend severed ties with Iran

A delegation from Belgium’s port of Antwerp paid a visit to Iran last week to explore the possibilities of reestablishing shipping and commerce ties, shortly after the European Union adopted a framework to lift its nuclear-related economic and financial sanctions and open up this market of around 80 million potential consumers.

The EU will lift the sanctions against Iran provided that the official Tehran meets its obligations under a recently signed nuclear deal.

The delegation which was made up of petrochemical and shipping experts met in Tehran with various ministries, petrochemical organisations and private companies. With this mission Antwerp Port Authority seeks to open the doors of Iran for the Antwerp port community once more.

The exploratory mission was mainly aimed at making contacts with official bodies in Iran. It included meetings with Mohammad Saeednejad, head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization, Dr. Mohammad Saeidi, head of the Islamic Republic Shipping Line, Masoud Karbasian, head of the Iranian Customs Service, and Seyed Jamal Hosseini, vice-chairman of the Iranian Investment Organisation.

The discussions covered Iran’s ambitions in shipping and commerce, as well as the role that the port of Antwerp could play in attaining these Iranian objectives.

The programme which was drawn up together with the Belgian embassy also included a meeting with a number of Iranian private companies and consultancies with knowledge of the Iranian shipping industry. The delegation concluded with a visit to the Shahid Rajaee port in Bandar Abbas and the Queshm free trade zone. Shahid Rajee is the largest container port in Iran, accounting for nearly half of Iranian shipping imports.

“Up until 2010 Antwerp was the largest European port destination for Iranian cargoes,” said Marc Van Peel, Port of Antwerp Authority Chairman.

“In the light of the recent nuclear agreement and the raising of economic sanctions, we wanted to let the Iranians know directly that Antwerp is still the ideal hub for reaching the European hinterland. There is also great demand on the Iranian side for know-how concerning port infrastructure, among other things. Port of Antwerp International and the Antwerp Flanders Port Training Centre are ready to support the Iranian port community in these areas. In all respects the mission was certainly successful, opening up prospects both for Iran and for our port.” 

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