Indian-Iranian shipping company to close due to sanctions against Iran

Anti-Iran sanctions are forcing a shipping company backed by the governments of India and Iran to close, the company said Wednesday.

The Irano Hind Shipping Co., jointly owned by the Shipping Corp. of India and the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, was formed in 1974 and is among the few international ventures to survive the 1979 Islamic Revolution and decades of economic and diplomatic pressure from the West.

"The fleet will be split between the two partners," said S. Hajara, chairman and managing director of Shipping Corp. of India. "Irano Hind will cease operation."

Hajara said sanctions have made it too difficult to operate the fleet's seven vessels.

"Charters don't want to take vessels which are under sanctions," he said. "The company is having difficulty deploying the vessels and that's why the decision has been taken."

He said the decision to dissolve the company was made last week at an Irano Hind board meeting and must be approved by the two governments and the United Nations.

India is one of the main targets of U.S. attempts to chip away at Iran's critical commercial lifelines across Asia. In May, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited New Delhi to urge leaders to cut back on oil imports from Iran -- about 9 percent of India's fast-rising energy consumption -- and turn to other suppliers such as Saudi Arabia.

The breakup of Irano Hind -- which was placed under U.N. sanctions in 2010 -- shows how even longstanding companies can quickly become unhinged by the widening sanctions.

The joint venture -- owned 51 percent by Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and 49 percent by the Indian side -- was formed by Iran's former Shah Reza Pahlavi and the late Indira Gandhi of India as a bond of friendship.

Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department cited IRISL for trying to evade sanctions "through deceptive practices" such as shifting the registry of its ships to avoid monitors.

The U.S. and its allies have pressed nations with traditions of easy maritime registry -- so-called flags of convenience -- to shun Iranian vessels. Last month, Sierra Leone became the latest to revoke flags for Irano Hind's tanker Amin, Treasury said.