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This article was originally published in Ship Technology Global's digital magazine, Issue May 2021, and can be accessed here and on the publication's website, here

Testing the waters: Direct shipping opens between Iran and Syria

In a new plan to boost the economies of heavily-sanctioned Iran and war-torn Syria, a new shipping line has been established between the two countries, in a move which could have massive ramifications for relations in the Middle East.

“Politics aside, it is an interesting proposition, because Iran and Syria are two of the most heavily sanctioned jurisdictions in the world, therefore it made sense that in a time when Iran especially is struggling to export because of international sanctions, it would look for a strategic ally capable of accepting Iranian exports,” says Russell Strong, solicitor at specialist international arbitration and litigation firm Zaiwalla & Co.

Sarosh Zaiwalla, international arbitration expert and co-founder and senior partner of Zaiwalla & Co. Solicitors, points out that while there could be objections if the shipment contains arms or ammunition, it is not necessarily strictly illegal under the sanctions.

“If a country feels that it is a target, they might well be entitled to protect themselves in self-defence,” he explains.

Zaiwalla adds that it is not impossible to get international insurance under the sanctions but it would likely be very expensive due to a special premium applied for going into a war zone.

Tensions between countries in the region are already rising. US officials have stated that they believe Israel has already targeted at least a dozen vessels headed for Syria carrying Iranian oil, as Israelis fear petroleum profits are funding extremism in the Middle East.

Zaiwalla says he hopes that instead the ‘humanitarian angle’ will come first instead of further sanctions and aggravation, and the new US administration raises the potential of an easing of restrictions on Iran, though there are no signs that is set to happen yet.

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