Colleagues travelling to Iran must always be careful to leave their iPhones at home. “If we were to use an Apple system, being a US product, we would be liable to penalties – and fines could start at USD 250,000 per violation. That’s a lot of money just to bring a phone into the country.”
If we spot a risk, we say no
Manish Mehta, Maersk Line UAE, who managed the Iran re-entry project says:
“The Iran re-entry is a result of an intensive collaboration among all teams – commercial, finance, operations, legal, HR and IT, despite being in distant locations. We derive great comfort from the automation of compliance checks in our internal systems as it allows the conduct of business in a controlled environment, leaving no room for mistakes and eventual penalties."
Besides proactive checks by a specialised team in the Global Service Center (GSC) in India, supported by the legal compliance team in Dubai and Copenhagen – additional due diligence measures have been introduced that screen every customer and commodity and their acceptability as per international sanctions regulations.
‘We worked closely with teams in the GSC including the compliance, quoting and booking teams to set up strong compliance checks. For example, we included customer checks at the booking stage as standard,” explains Manoj Menezes, Business Process Manager, Maersk Line UAE.
“Maersk Line is well-known for its consistent compliance program and adherence to the international regulatory framework,” says Alexandra Belmonte, Group Rule Owner of Foreign Trade Controls.
“But we apply extra caution to the Iranian project, through the deployment of a thorough due diligence review prior to commencing any type of business relationships with vendors of any Iranian background. At every step, we leave no stone unturned to validate any piece of information related to Iran transactions.”
“If we spot a risk we just say no to the request,” adds Georgios Vamvourellis, Regional Head of Legal & Compliance, West Central Asia. “It’s a constant process, it happens throughout the day. Training is so important and we try to keep a small team – it’s about constantly monitoring the changes and ensuring we keep up. It’s not an easy process but we are now in a position where we understand what needs to be done. But it’s been a learning curve.”
The teams ensure that there is no US link to transactions with Iran and has a separate invoicing and collection system for its business to Iran.
A huge potential market
Despite the challenges, there is huge optimism for the future of the business in Iran. The current market size is estimated to be 700,000 FFE and Maersk Line is running four weekly foreign feeder vessels into Bandar Abbas and Bushehr. While reinstating a direct call to Iran is in the pipeline, it is at least a year away.
Maersk Line’s strong reputation for compliance has proved to be a valuable selling point with potential customers in Iran.
“100% compliance is non-negotiable for us,” says Christian Juul-Nyholm. “It enables us to offer a competitive advantage to our customers. Maersk is the name you choose to show you are doing things ‘by the book’ – that’s the reputation we want. It’s part of our brand – reliable, trustworthy, and being a responsible corporate citizen.”
Iranian Silk Roads agrees this has proved crucial in the business relationship.
“We cannot put our company in a dangerous place,” sums up Shamim Rahami. “We appreciate the work Maersk Line does to check all consignments and the many policies and regulations it has for accepting shipments.”