CMA CGM pulls plug on Iran

France-based CMA CGM announced on Saturday July 7th that it was withdrawing from trade with and through Iran because of the danger of becoming embroiled in US sanctions. President Hassan Rouhani had demanded that European countries to do more to offset the US measures.

CMA CGM, which operates the world’s third-largest container shipping fleet with more than 11% of global capacity, said it would halt services for Iran as, given its large presence in the US, it did not want to break any rules

Chairman and CEO Rodolphe Saadé said during an economic conference in the southern French city of Aix-en-Provence that “due to the Trump administration, we have decided to end our service for Iran. Our Chinese competitors are hesitating a little, so maybe they have a different relationship with Trump, but we apply the rules”. Container Ship industry leader Maersk announced in May it was pulling out of Iran.

The CMA CGM announcement is a blow to Tehran, which yesterday, July 9th, asked to withdraw €300m from German accounts amid fears that the sanctions could lead to it running out of cash. Iran has said it needs more help from Europe to keep alive an agreement with world powers to curb its nuclear programme.

Meanwhile, French oil company Total said it held little hope of receiving a US waiver to continue with a multibillion-dollar gas project in Iran, and Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne said at the weekend that the company had been left with little choice. “If we continued to work in Iran, Total would not be able to access the US financial world. Our duty is to protect the company. So we have to leave Iran”, he said in a radio interview.

Meanwhile, some Iranian officials have threatened to block oil exports from the Gulf in retaliation, with President Rouhani dropping hints that this could be a governmental response in a speech last week.