Exclusive: Saudi-backed shipping line UASC resumes Iran business

Wed Jan 20, 2016 2:32pm EST
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By Jonathan Saul

LONDON (Reuters) - United Arab Shipping Company is resuming business with Iran following the lifting of Western sanctions, despite the deep-seated political rivalry between the Islamic Republic and Saudi Arabia, one of the shipping line's main shareholders.

A nuclear deal between world powers and Iran led to the removal on Saturday of international oil export prohibitions as well as restrictions on banking, insurance and shipping.

Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia has grave reservations about the lifting of sanctions on its main regional rival, with which it cut ties earlier this month after its Tehran embassy was attacked following Riyadh's execution of a Shi'ite cleric.

Other Gulf nations which hold stakes in UASC also have difficult relations with Iran.

But a source close to the shipping line made clear that for UASC, commercial considerations were more important than political difficulties.

Kuwait-headquartered UASC told Reuters on Wednesday 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 volumes 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 U.S. sanctions still in place, which exclude U.S. individuals, banks and insurers from trading with Iran including business denominated in dollars, shipping and marine insurance sources say many foreign companies are likely to tread carefully.   Continued...

A general view of an oil dock is seen from a ship at the port of Kalantari in the city of Chabahar, 300km (186 miles) east of the Strait of Hormuz January 17, 2012. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi