By Jonathan Saul
LONDON, Jan 19 (Reuters) – Italy’s RINA expects to start verifying safety and environmental standards for Iranian ships including oil tankers in a matter of weeks, the classification society said, stealing a lead on rivals as business interest in Iran heats up.
Without verification from such bodies, ships are unable to call at international ports or secure insurance.
RINA said it had signed an agreement this week with Iran’s Asia Classification Society, enabling the Genoa-headquartered group to provide services to Iranian shipping firms.
Under Iranian regulations, international players have to team up with local counterparts when providing cover for Iranian flagged vessels.
“We hope that in a maximum of one month, we should have the first vessels coming into our class,” Paolo Moretti, general manager with RINA’s marine division, told Reuters on Tuesday.
Moretti said RINA was already looking to provide classification cover for Iran’s top tanker operator NITC as well as its leading container and dry cargo shipping group IRISL. Much of IRISL’s fleet is Iranian flagged.
“We had to do a class agreement with one of the two national class societies to have the possibility to start classing their fleet,” Moretti said.
A nuclear deal between world powers – known as the P5+1 – and Iran led to the removal on Saturday of international oil export prohibitions as well as restrictions on banking, insurance and shipping for Tehran.
Securing international insurance cover as well as reconnecting with the international banking system will be key to determine how quickly Iran can ramp up oil exports and re-engage with the foreign shipping sector.
Classification societies cut ties with Iran after tough sanctions were imposed in 2012.
Britain’s Lloyd’s Register said on Monday it was working on resuming services, while Norwegian-headquartered DNV GL said it was considering “re-entering the Iranian market”.
France’s Bureau Veritas said separately it planned to give Iranian ship owners “full support to assist their re-entry into global service”, without providing further details.
Moretti said RINA did not have previous operations with Iran unlike other classification societies, adding that it was building relationships with Iranian shipping companies “pretty quickly”.
“RINA was not one of the companies who left the country,” he said. “We are a new beginner.”
He said RINA would have its Iranian operation up and running by the end of the month and aimed to also offer other services such as testing oil pipes.
“RINA Iran … will focus not only on the marine side, but on oil and gas, energy, power generation, infrastructure and business assurance,” he said.
Foreign oil tanker owners are expected to make a slow return to Iran despite the lifting of many sanctions as insurers tread carefully, leaving shipping players unwilling to pick up cargoes as quickly as Tehran has wanted. (Editing by Susan Thomas)
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2016.