TEHRAN, June 14 (Shana) – Commercial Director of National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) says each Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) earnt the company an average of 50,000 dollars per day in 2015.
Now that Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has been implemented, it is much easier to speak of the hardships of the international embargoes caused by the sanctions; there were days that Iranian tankers, were only calling India, China, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey and now we can also call European ports and other international terminals where we used to call prior to the imposed sanctions.
International politics forced sanctions upon NITC, to tacitly keep a check on the country’s crude oil exports. The sanctions could have been avoided given the company’s private nature, but it was listed among the companies targeted by the sanctions with no one to explain why. However, with the implementation of the JCPOA, Iranians have the right once again to choose where their oil tankers will sail.
Speaking to Shana, Nasrollah Sardashti said the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) gave NITC the right to choose where it wants to set sail in international seas.
Since JCPOA, a deal struck by Iran and the P5+1 group of countries over Tehran’s nuclear program, was implemented in January 2016, new life has been blown into Iran’s oil tanker fleet, one of the world’s most formidable ones, and as Sardashti says, “NITC is now at an excellent state.”
“The issues with ship flagging, classification and insurance have been settled and we will soon restore our pre-sanctions activities in international markets,” said Sardashti, a veteran master mariner with 19 years of experience working on vessels and 20 years in the head office. He has only 2 years left until his retirement.
During these years, he has a lot of stories to tell with the worst being during the Iran-Iraq imposed war.
“A marine job is never boring; everyday something new happens and it doesn’t matter whether you are onboard or in the office”.
“No two days are the same on a vessel or in the head office; though you are not in much contact with people, you are constantly in touch with the shipping world.”
NITC is currently in possession of 69 tankers of which 42 are VLCCs.
The following is an excerpt of Shana’s interview with Mr. Sardashti.
Shana: NITC has passed behind some very difficult days in recent years. The company was targeted by the sanctions for two time in 2012 and 2015. How is it now?
Sardashti: All are excellent now [chuckles].
Shana: What do you mean by “excellent”?
Sardashti: I mean all of our vessels are active now and we have none of them idling around; all the issues with flag, classification societies and insurers have been sorted out and we are now connecting to the international market just like before the sanctions were imposed upon us.
Shana: Under the sanctions, NITC fleet was at the disposal of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) but NIOC seems to favor export of crude oil on an FOB (free on board) basis. What is your plan for this?
Sardashti: If NIOC says it no longer needs our fleet, we can re-engage our tankers with their previous activities in the European , African, Middle Eastern, etc. markets. Our vessels always have a market to set sail in.
Shana: Would selling oil on FOB basis incur losses on NITC?
Sardashti: Selling oil is a different issue from shipping. There are some customers who have their own vessels and there are others who need vessels to carry their oil. Under the sanctions, NITC carried Iranian oil and we are certain that NIOC will not cease to support us, but it should be noted that NITC relishes its young and efficient fleet of oil tankers and has no problem marketing our tankers in international market.
Shana: Captain! You said that issues like insurance and flagging of NITC vessels have been sorted out, how about issues with vetting by the Oil Majors?
Sardashti: We have not entered that stage yet. By vetting it means a vessel supposed to be loaded at a given port or employed by Oil Majors, must be vetted for its qualities and cleared by the Oil Majors.
Shana: One Oil Major ?
Sardashti: It would be better with 4 but vetting with one Oil Major is mandatory. There are some vessels that may even need two clearances. Usually, vetting is done during discharging operation.
When a ship is cleared and vetted, it is presumed that it has no problem and can be chartered by the Oil Majors. Under the sanctions, we could not contact these companies and because of that our vessels could not receive their vetting and clearance services.
Shana: Which companies do the vetting?
Sardashti: Oil Majors like Royal Dutch Shell, Total, Repsol and BP do the ship vetting. A vessel that is cleared by Shell can be cleared without the need for further clearance. In other words, Shell’s vetting services are accepted by all other companies.
Shana: Has the issue with hull insurance been solved?
Sardashti: There has never been such a concern for NITC. The company could manage 70% of its hull insurance abroad even under the sanctions. What was different before and during the sanctions regarding hull insurance was the price we had to pay for insuring our ships which was higher under the imposed sanctions.
Shana: What insurance companies are you in talks with?
Sardashti: We are in talks with the world’s biggest insurance companies. I’d rather not disclose more details before we have finalized this matter.
Shana: Has the issue with P&I and IGI A P&I clubs been resolved?
Sardashti: The problem with the IGA P&I Clubs was the shortfall in their re-insurance programme which as an interim measure has been adequately addressed through a supplementary or fallback re-insurance.
Shana: Can Kish P&I Club be a member of the IGA?
Sardashti: Not now. It’s still got a lot of work to do but NITC is using the company’s services. It has also recently obtained permits for 5 flags to offer insurance services under their flags. Because it was formed under the sanctions, it still needs some time to meet certain standards needed for IGA membership.
Shana: Are NITC’s foreign offices active?
Sardashti: Our office branches in the Netherlands, Sweden, China, Rotterdam and Dubai are up and running but will become more active in the days to come.
Shana: Are you planning to open new office branches on other countries?
Sardashti: Yes. In Hong Kong and a European city. It is not usually the case for shipping companies to open branches everywhere. When chartering out our ships, each branch has a different work to do. For example, our Rotterdam office does arrangements with Vetting inspection and other required surveys or our Dubai office handles the technical services and spare parts.
Shana: Were NITC accounts open under the sanctions?
Sardashti: Yes, they were not blocked but were idle. We are reactivating them.
Shana: Where do you do the repairs of your vessels?
Sardashti: In China, Dubai and Oman. Due to the size of our vessel, except few vessels, we have to repair other ships outside Iran.
Shana: How many vessels has NITC added to its fleet under the sanctions?
Sardashti: We added 22 since the beginning of the sanctions.
Shana: How much does a VLCC earn for the company?
Sardashti: Nearly $50,000 on average per day.
Shana: Did you charter your ships to foreign customers for oil storage under the sanctions?
Sardashti: Before the sanctions, yes. But during the sanctions setting we gave our fleet to NIOC for its use. We will certainly consider this market now that the sanctions are lifted.
Shana: What is the average age of your ships?