Top shipping line Maersk says halts Iran service

LONDON Tue Oct 9, 2012 7:37am EDT

LONDON Oct 9 (Reuters) - Maersk Line, the world's biggest container shipping company, has stopped port calls to Iran as Western sanctions pressure on the Islamic Republic mounts, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

"Maersk Line has ceased to call in Iran," a spokeswoman for the unit of Danish group A.P. Moller-Maersk said.

"This is a pragmatic decision based on an assessment of balancing the benefits of doing limited business in Iran against the risk of damaging business opportunities elsewhere particularly the U.S."

In 2011 the United States blacklisted major Iranian port operator Tidewater Middle East Co, which operates seven terminals in Iran including the biggest container port Bandar Abbas. That led Maersk Line to suspended operations at several ports.

"Maersk Line ceased its acceptance to all other ports than Bushehr in 2011," the spokeswoman said, referring to Iran's small northern container port. "The discontinuation of services to and from Bushehr unfortunately reflects the difficulties servicing Iran as a whole."

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