CMA CGM Signs Cooperation Agreement with IRISL

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Published Jan 28, 2016 8:21 PM by The Maritime Executive

French firm CMA CGM, the world’s third-largest container shipping operator, signed a significant cooperation agreement Thursday with Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL).

The move comes as many European companies – maritime and otherwise – seek to expand their business ties to the newly reopened Iranian market in the post-nuclear-sanctions era. The agreement, signed during a goodwill visit to Paris by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, covers capacity sharing, joint route operations, and cooperation in using port terminals, the French government said.

CMA CGM and Evergreen of Taiwan were the first to restart direct service to Iran last August; MSC restarted port calls in late December, and United Arab Shipping Company resumed business with Iran in January. Maersk, the world's largest container shipping operator, has said that it is still examining service to Iran.

CMA CGM now operates three direct routes to Iran, linking the country to Africa, Asian and India. It also offers indirect services with transhipments via the United Arab Emirates.

“The progressive lifting of sanctions should bring strong growth in trade between Iran and the rest of the world. This agreement opens new opportunities for CMA CGM to expand in this region,” the firm said in a statement.

IRISL is Iran's largest containerized cargo carrier, and along with other state-owned maritime firms like the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), it has been removed from sanctions lists related to Iran's nuclear program.

In December, the Iranian firm announced plans to order new 18,000 TEU (Triple-E type) container vessels from Chinese yards. The orders could total to 600,000 TEU in all, plus new general cargo ships and bulkers. At present, IRISL has a fleet of 160 vessels. “We are facing a new situation with the West. There are lots of opportunities, especially for IRISL,” IRISL chairman Mohammed Saeidi told media. “We have to develop and increase our facilities and ships.” 

CMA CGM agreed in December to acquire Singapore’s Neptune Orient Lines, parent company of American President Lines (APL), part of a recent industry-wide push for consolidation in global shipping.