Oman Port Signs Iran Trade Deals

Salalah
Port of Salalah, Oman.

By Reuters 2016-03-07 16:45:24

Oman's top port Salalah has signed trade agreements with key Iranian terminals in the latest efforts by the Gulf country to boost shipping ties with Tehran following the lifting of international sanctions.

Measures against Iran were lifted in January as part of a nuclear deal with world powers, ending years of isolation which saw the international shipping sector cut ties and disrupt supplies to import-dependent Iran.

The United Arab Emirates previously enjoyed greater shipping activity with Iran, but ports in Oman are looking at expanding ties.

Salalah, located near the Gulf of Aden, said on Monday it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran's biggest cargo port Bandar Abbas and with Chabahar port, which would "facilitate growth in shipping, trade and commerce" between the two countries.

"We also envisage the landlocked countries adjacent to Iran to use the existing multilateral agreements for transport corridors to access new markets," Port of Salalah Chief Executive David Gledhill said in a statement.

Oman's government owns a majority stake in Salalah, which is the country's main transshipment port, and handled 2.6 million TEUs of container trade last year as well as 12.5 million tons of bulk cargo. AP Moller Maersk unit APM Terminals has a 30.1 percent holding.

Officials with Sohar port, which is located further north in the Gulf of Oman and in which Oman's government holds a 50 percent stake, have told Reuters they were in talks with Iranian shipping lines and ports to boost trade amid tough shipping markets.

Oman could benefit from tensions between rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran which saw Riyadh cut ties in January and others like the UAE downgrade relations. Annual UAE-Iran container trade pre-sanctions was estimated at 1.5 million TEUs.

While Oman has maintained warm ties with Tehran, it faces competition from across the Arabian Sea in the form of India.