The Iranian shipping company Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) called at the port of Antwerp with one of its ships last week, for the first time since economic sanctions were lifted. The honour of being the “first” Iranian ship in Antwerp’s waters fell to the container carrier Azargoun which moored at the Antwerp Gateway terminal in the Deurganck dock.
Up until 2010 Antwerp was the main European port destination for Iranian cargo. Now that sanctions against Iran have been lifted, the Port Authority is eager to restore economic relations with that country. With its large and growing cargo volume of containers and petrochemical products, Iran offers great potential for a port such as Antwerp which is not only the second-largest container port in Europe but is also home to the continent’s largest integrated petrochemical cluster.
IRISL announced at the end of January that it intended to resume the direct container service between the Persian Gulf and Europe. In the longer term it aims to operate a weekly service with units ranging from 5,125 to 6,572 TEU, but initially it is working with smaller units and a departure frequency of once every two weeks. The container carrier Azargoun (2,478 TEU) left the port of Bandar Abbas on 19 February, arriving in the Mediterranean 10 days later via the Suez canal. IRISL will send other container and breakbulk carriers to the port of Antwerp in mid-April.