Today also it would be impossible to exchange goods among most countries without shipping and the global economy is becoming more and more dependent on maritime transportation. Based on available witnesses, in the course of the last twenty years, even the landlocked countries have thought of strengthening their role in shipping by leasing the port facilities of coastal states to be able to meet their needs in the cycle of global exchanges in a streamlined fashion.
Statistics show that for each member country of the United Nations, there are on average 277 large commercial ships and tankers sailing in the oceans, and the global competition to expand the capacities of maritime fleet has reached its zenith. If thirty years ago the largest oceangoing vessel could barely handle 15,000 tons of cargo, today the movement of ships with capacities exceeding the 25,000 TEU in capacity at different parts of the world has become an ordinary event and possession of such fleets has become an indicator for economic development in world ranking. The Middle East and in particular the strategic waterway of Persian Gulf was since the middle of twentieth century in the need for a large fleet for ensuring the import and export requirements of the region in parallel to the industrial growth of the littoral states. At this time the importance of efficient use of the countries coasts and the need for Iran’s participation in the regional shipping industry motivated the government to create a large shipping company, and so the first national commercial fleet was born in August 1967 under the title of “National Arya Shipping”. The proper performance of the young fleet in meeting the needs of regional countries during the first five years of its operation, incited the management of Arya Shipping to increase the number of owned vessels by tenfold, and with the increase of transportation capacity to half a million, the mentioned shipping company became in practice the largest maritime transportation company in the Middle East. At this junction the national Iranian maritime fleet established regular lines for transportation of cargo between the Persian Gulf and Europe, the Persian Gulf and South Asian and the Persian Gulf and America, thereby succeeding in appropriating a large share of the cargo transit in the surrounding markets. After the revolution and changing its name to “Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines”, by insisting on the need for maintaining independence and national self-sufficiency, the fleet has taken great strides in training specialized seaman among the country’s youths and has founded one of the most advanced navigation training centers in the country. In subsequent years, in addition to meeting the needs of IRISL and its subsidiaries for specialized manpower this positive move has ensured a major part of manpower supply for other non-governmental shipping companies and has even paved the grounds for export of Iranian navigation services to other countries and foreign currency earnings. In this software strategy through organization of comparative and applied navigation trainings, the supplementary officers training, auxiliary course, training on port operations and logistics, and training the land staff, the IRISL Training Institute has played an effective role in improving the professional awareness of manpower employed by different parts of the Iranian maritime transportation sector.
Another considerable action taken by IRISL in the years following the Islamic Revolution was the establishment of new companies for provision of proper cargo and passenger transportation services in the frame of different shipping lines. The Iran South Line Shipping Company, the Valfajr Shipping company, the Caspian Shipping Company, the Iran – India Shipping Company, the Iran – Egypt shipping Company, the Iranian West Ship Company, the Maritime and Shipping Engineering Services Company, the Ira-Ital Company and Machine Services Company and the IRISL Multimodal Transportation Company have in recent year taken extensive actions to boost their performance in cargo and passenger transportation at different waterways, the total of which has aided in improving the IRISL’s world ranking. However the most praiseworthy services of the national fleet were related to eight years of Sacred Defense, when it never allowed the limitations of the war and the turmoil in the Persian Gulf to impair the importation and supply of essential goods of the country and the logistic cargo of the frontlines. The proud performance of the fleet during the years of Sacred Defense under the harshest of conditions and the relentless bombardments of port terminals prevented even the least interruption in supplying the general and special requirements of the country. On the other hand, the regular plan for expansion of the mentioned lines, which had begun three decades before and continued during the presidency of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani with the aim of expanding commercial exchanges with all countries and conveying Iran’s message of peace and friendship to other nations, paved the grounds for exchange of goods between the most important ports of the world and the Iranian coasts.
The second generation of containerships was added to the IRISL fleet at this stage following the public investment. However, more importantly was the powerful presence of IRISL in the process of maritime transportation in the Caspian Sea, the right of which was taken away though shameful political treaties with Russia in the past two centuries. In addition to reviving the political rights of Iran in this sea, the movement of national fleet among the different coasts of the Caspian and northern ports led to expansion of trade with the newly independent countries. On the other hand in the last decade and after privatization and separation from government dominion, IRISL has found a new momentum for powerful presence in maritime transportation and has signed large contracts for investment in construction of private port facilities or the purchase of advanced and powerful fleet from advanced countries. This action never interfered with the task of supporting the national production by IRISL, because simultaneous with the purchase of state of the arts ships from abroad, the order for construction of a number of oceangoing vessels to national industries paved the way for new shipbuilding technologies to Iran. Now on the threshold of its sixth decade of fruitful existence the national fleet is seeking to strengthen its support of national industries and by investing in the expansion of technical capacities of shipbuilders, encourages the domestic producers to bid in the large international tenders and to compete productively with the large shipbuilding industries. A fair look at the performance of this company over the past fifty years and the review of its proud record in the international maritime transportation, is the source of delight for any Iranian and traces a bright future for the presence of the national fleet in the international trade.