Considering the developments achieved in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line (IRISL) is strongly determined to emerge in the international markets again. For this purpose, IRISL has set proper goals for the new era including a promotion in existing ranking among world renowned companies and gain its share from the market.
In December 2015, IRISL director, Dr. Mohammad Saeedi, publicly announced the directed prospects of IRISL, and since then, an account of years’ experience in managing international affairs, he managed to inspire desired changes in the group. The following is the transcript of an interview with Dr. Mohammad Saeedi in respect to the prospects ahead of the IRISL, the reforming of the procedures, and IRISL’s short-term and long-term strategic plans.
1)Since your tenure in IRISL, the revival of the IRISL brand has been a top priority for you. Could you please elaborate on this?
A: In the recent years, international benchmark of business and transportation has witnessed a tremendous change, and what determines success and prosperity is branding. The revival of the IRISL brand at the international level and turning it into an authentic and reliable global trademark in future markets is a short-term goal for the mega-fleet of IRISL. To achieve this, all IRISL affiliated companies as well as the holding company have received a directive to use IRISL brand in all the contracts and memoranda of understanding they sign with international and prominent holdings and shipping companies. Of course I should emphasize that IRISL brand is a far valid and authentic brand, which was affected by the shadow of sanctions.
Now, with the lifting of the sanctions and the execution of JCPOA, it is the time for IRISL to return to its glory. Immediately after lifting sanctions, at the IRISL, we witnessed myriad requests and offers from huge international shipping companies. Moreover, I should stress that in such a short period, we have had negotiations and agreements with world’s top 10 shipping lines, for collaboration in the international markets.
Right now, no confinements for international transportation exists, and IRISL could continue its activities everywhere just like any other shipping line. We intend to regain our lost markets and step in new markets where we had no presence earlier. IRISL is capable of promoting its ranking in international ranking level.
2)Could you provide a brief account of your plans for the renovation and expansion of your fleet? Besides, where do you stand on the application of advanced technology?
A: Our first step in achieving the determined goals in the upcoming years is equipping IRISL fleet with advanced software and hardware systems. It is the advanced software and hardware systems that we are after, and as far as the promotion of the capacity of the IRISL is concerned, we intend to utilize world’s leading shipyards. We are currently negotiating with shipyards from Europe, South Korea, and China engaged in the construction of the ships we need. However, South Asian shipbuildings are more preferable regarding the competitive prices they offer compared to their European counterparts. Nevertheless, I estimate that for the next six or seven years the Iranian shipyards are upgraded enough to accept the orders from IRISL.
3)Which sections do you think will get the most attention regarding the renovation plan?
A: We assess and prioritize the sections according to the demands and therefore, right now the major attention is paid to chemical vessels along with general cargo. In fact, many European customers voiced their interest on Iranian petrochemical products which were exported to Europe through Turkey during the sanctions against Iran. I hasten to add that the amount of exported petrochemical products to Asian countries was about $40b and the good point is that after sanctions removals, the amount will hike to $60b through working with our the customers directly.
4)What type of commodities do you think play an important role in import and export in Iran?
Exporting Iranian carpet, nuts and petrochemicals to other countries is of great importance. Iran produces the best quality carpet and the export of this product was stopped thanks to the sanction. However, the US and Canada along with Switzerland, France, UK, and Germany are considered great destinations for the Iranian carpet and IRISL targets to fulfill this with its fleet.
Moreover, LPG is one of our main exported products in future and the project attracts many Iranian producers.
Furthermore, there is a wide range of demands for importing cars to Iran. In fact, Iranian companies have run negotiations with the European and further negotiations are planned by parties in both parties. IRISL in the regard will handle the import as well.
In terms of agriculture, soybeans, wheat and other grains from Latin America will be imported to Iran by IRISL vessels.
The Iranian factories also demand raw materials to be transported to the country as well.
5)Training skillful human resources and establishing ties with world’s leading universities have always been a serious concern for you. What is your plan in this regard?
A: Promoting the special-technical knowledge and skills of human resources in IRISL has always been a top priority, both in terms of technology and commerce. Even though, IRISL training institute has been well managed to train our human resources in maritime education sector, we intend to keep our ties with world’s leading colleges and universities to hold advanced training courses for IRISL staff. Initial negotiations have already started to promote the training courses, and we intend to introduce young staff into these courses.
6)What plans have you put into action regarding your collaboration with Central Asia countries and expanding your activities in the Caspian Sea?
A: With regards to establishing a direct import-export transportation line between Central Asia and the free international waters, Iran is the key route. Given the construction of Inche Boroon railway, Iran is well capable of connecting Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to the free international waters. This could be put into practice via a shipping joint-venture. Furthermore, I do believe IRISL needs to be actively and effectively present in the international markets of South America, North America, and Africa. Initially, we need to establish ties with world’s prominent holdings and ports through joint venture agreements and collaborations. This way, we would utilize their terminals and ports in a joint style, and they will be able to use our joint terminals in the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea.
On the other hand, Chabahar port is going to be the most important port in Iran and Oman Sea mainly due to its strategic location. The Indian and Pakistani companies can transfer their cargos to Afghanistan and CIS countries through Chabahar port.
7)How does IRISL plan to act in the bunkering industry?
A: One of the most effective ways of earning profit in international shipping is the bunkering 8 and fueling industry, and since IRISL had already entered the industry, it owns 50,000-ton tankers in Bandar Abbas and taking advantage of two huge storages in Qeshm and Bandar Abbas, we plan to enter the new areas such as gas and petroleum products inside Iran as well as overseas. In this field, we have great opportunities ahead of us with respect to dealing with European and South Asian customers directly in post-sanction era. My colleagues in bulk-sales department are currently studying several plans to enter Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) transportation. Furthermore establishing facilities in Singapore as one of the major bunkering hubs in the world along with finding a proper European partner are within the plans. A significant project is under operation in Qeshm region, and it will be inaugurated in the next few months. With the launching of this project, the bunkering capacity of IRISL will reach 100 thousand tons.
8)After the execution of JCPOA, negotiations with foreign delegations about collaboration and participation entered a new level. Would you elaborate on this please?
In a meeting with the 12-member delegation of Danish Ship-owners’ Association, IRILS signed a memorandum of understanding with the Danish Maersk Group. Based on this MoU, collaborations between Iran’s Ship-owners’ Association and Danish shipping lines will be enhanced, and we do hope to expand our cooperation with them in fields such as maritime transportation, off-shore industries, and exporting gas products and non-petroleum goods.
On the other hand, a collaboration document for shipping and logistic affairs was signed between IRISL and the French CMA CGM. Based on that, the two parties will collaborate in exchanging container spaces, creating common services in different international routes, and exchanging containers slots in places which benefit both parties.
Moreover, IRISL managed to establish a shipping joint-venture company with Germany, and hence, get full advantage of all the available capacities. We also launched collaboration with Italy and France through MoUs and signed agreements with an Italian shipping line and an Italian port administration company. Simultaneously, we signed two remarkable agreements in France to jointly collaborate with French holdings, which are among the top-ranking companies in international rankings. One of these French companies holds the 3rd top shipping line ranking worldwide.
In addition, IRISL signed an MoU with Kazakhstan and another MoU with the Turkish Arkas Holding a while ago. We also have negotiated with Indian companies. IRISL plans to expand its ties with major IACS member classification societies, as well.
Moreover, after the implementation day we successfully set up new lines from the Persian Gulf to European north and south ports. In northern Europe, Rotterdam and in the south Hamburg Germany). The lines also cover Genova in Italy and Malta too.
We also managed to project a new line from Persian Gulf to Latin America which started to be operational about two months ago and cover Argentina and Uruguay to reach Brazil.
The other new line which is to operate in four or five months’ time will be launched from Persian Gulf to Vancouver, Canada. The latter is aided by the positive atmosphere the Canadian officials created for economic relation and expanding business with Iran.
9)Finally, where do you see the company in near future and what are the main plans for the period?
IRISL projects three priorities in near future which are fleet expansion, training experts and establishing JV companies. We intend to handle Iranian commodities all over the world and the plan demands an increase in the number of vessels.
Furthermore, we have an institute to educate qualified young experts who will assist IRISL to move forward with its international plans.
The JV companies facilitate bank transaction and the process of import and export in the respective country for IRISL which aims to deliver and reach any Iranian commodities in all ports around the world. In fact, the majority of IRISL income is from transportation in international lines and services and it is quite essential for IRISL to transfer any money easily and cut the number of banks in between. Furthermore, establishing JV companies is another IRISL priority.