Reuters: Iran’s biggest crude oil tanker operator NITC said on Friday its ship insurers had declined to renew policy cover for the coming year due to the impact of tightening sanctions in the European Union.
By Jonathan Saul
LONDON, Feb 18 (Reuters) – Iran’s biggest crude oil tanker operator NITC said on Friday its ship insurers had declined to renew policy cover for the coming year due to the impact of tightening sanctions in the European Union.
Western nations suspect Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear bomb although Tehran says its atomic programme is peaceful.
NITC gets its third party liability insurance and pollution cover from the P&I Club market, marine insurers owned by shipping clients.
“NITC has found itself caught up in a situation of tightening sanctions as a totally innocent party, along with some 100 other Iranian shipping companies,” NITC chairman and managing director Mohammad Souri said in a statement.
The privately owned group said its four P&I clubs had declined to renew cover for the 2011/2012 policy year, adding it hoped for an early resolution of this matter and “speedy renewal of cover” from the international group of clubs. Its policies expire on Feb. 20.
“In the meantime, the company has been obliged to ensure that alternative P&I arrangements are in place for all ships trading in its international fleet, up to the required level of $1 billion of pollution cover for each incident,” Souri said.
“That cover is being provided by a mixture of fixed-premium insurers and other insurance companies based outside the EU, with adequate and suitable reinsurance provision,” he said without naming the providers.
NITC’s four P&I insurers are member clubs within the International Group of P&I Clubs.
Andrew Bardot, executive officer with the International Group of P&I Clubs, told Reuters while he was not privy to the specific negotiations he said that the clubs concerned had been liaising closely with NITC and with the UK Treasury “regarding the sanctions applicable to NITC’s insurance arrangements”.
“To the extent that NITC are compelled to seek P&I cover outside the International Group Clubs, such cover, which is ultimately provided for the benefit of third-party victims, is unlikely to replicate the scope and levels of cover that would be available had they been insured with a club or clubs that are members of the International Group,” he said.
The Treasury could not immediately be reached for comment.
A senior NITC official told Reuters in November that a revised European clause on Iranian sanctions was expected to mean that it would be able to secure insurance cover in the EU.
NITC’s fleet of tankers have Malta and Cyprus flags, data on NITC’s website showed.
Souri said on Friday that NITC’s fleet continued to trade normally in the service of international oil majors.
“The company … respects all international conventions and has never been engaged in any activity prohibited by the U.S., U.N. or EU,” he said.
“The question of sanctions which might affect NITC’s P&I arrangements has been pending for some six months, and we would like to thank all parties involved for their patience and support during this very difficult period.”
EU sanctions have aimed to block oil and gas investment in Iran and curtail Tehran’s refining and natural gas capability, but they have been crafted in a way that reduces the impact on ordinary Iranians.
(Editing by Anthony Barker)