Sanctions imposed on Iran by US President Donald Trump could have a knock-on effect on the Greek merchant shipping industry, the world’s largest exporter of Iranian oil.
The US has given Greece, along with China, India, Italy, Japan, Turkey, South Korea and Taiwan, a 180-day extension to begin winding down their Iranian oil exports. All other countries have been warned to stop importing Iranian oil at once or face US-imposed trade penalties; if the Greek merchant shipping industry continues to do business with Iran, Greece-based firms could find themselves barred from using American ports or trading with American companies.
The Greek merchant shipping industry is the world’s largest shipping fleet, with an estimated worth of around £77 billion (€88.2 billion): Greek-owned ships comprise around a fifth global maritime trade. Of the fleet’s 4,749 ships, 35 per cent are oil tankers. 217 tankers worldwide transported Iranian crude oil exports between January and June 2018, 81 of which were Greek-owned – by comparison, only 51 of the tankers were owned by Iranian entities.
The National Technical University of Athens’s associate professor of maritime transport Dimitrios Lyridis told reporters the majority of the Greek merchant shipping industry would adhere to Trump’s sanctions, saying: “Many of these companies are on the US stock market, so the risk of non-compliance is just too high. I see them diversifying towards other markets, for instance, the Saudi one, currently under pressure to increase its oil output.”
Trump has been gradually re-imposing US sanctions on Iran, currently focused on the oil, shipping and banking industries, after pulling the US out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal earlier this year. The most recent round of sanctions, announced on Monday, are the most drastic, with more than 700 entities now on the sanctions list. Trump’s actions have been condemned by the UK, Germany and France, all signatories to the 2015 deal.
Some theorists believe the sanctions, while they may have negative short term impacts, could provide a boost to the Greek merchant shipping industry in the long term: as countries will need to source oil from further afield than Iran, oil tanker owners will be able to draw higher profits from oil exports due to their vessels spending more time at sea.