LONDON Feb 9 Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have
banned Iranian-flagged vessels from entering their waters and
imposed other shipping restrictions, according to ship insurers
citing local reports, potentially escalating tensions between
Tehran and Riyadh.
Iran has been struggling to ramp up oil exports and still
faces insurance and financing hurdles despite the lifting of
international curbs on its banking, insurance and shipping
sectors last month as part of a nuclear deal with world powers.
A ban on Iranian ships in those ports is unlikely to affect
international trade, although the uncertainty will add to trade
hiccups for Iran.
Some ship insurers in recent days, citing reports from local
agents and correspondents, said in notes to members that Saudi
Arabia and Bahrain had banned all Iranian-flagged ships from
entering their waters.
Norwegian ship insurer Gard said Bahrain had imposed a ban
on any vessel that has visited Iran as one of its last three
"There is currently no such restriction in Saudi Arabia,"
Gard wrote, citing information from a logistics provider.
Saudi Arabian and Bahraini authorities did not immediately
respond to requests for comment.
Ship insurer West of England said separately: "An entered
vessel has since been denied entry to Bahrain after visiting an
Iranian port two port calls earlier, resulting in the fixture
Other ship insurers had yet to issue any guidance or confirm
there were new regulations in place.
While oil companies such as Italy's Eni and
France's Total have been looking to book cargoes from
Iran, international insurers are no nearer to resolving concerns
over U.S. sanctions that remain in place.
Last month, Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia cut ties with Shi'ite
Iran after its Tehran embassy was attacked following Riyadh's
execution of a Shi'ite cleric.
In solidarity with Riyadh, Kuwait and Qatar subsequently
pulled out their ambassadors from Tehran, and the United Arab
Emirates downgraded its ties. Bahrain and two non-Gulf states,
Djibouti and Sudan, severed relations completely.
Saudi Arabia and Iran - leading members of the Organization
of the Petroleum Exporting Countries - continue to grapple with
weak oil prices.
(Reporting by Jonathan Saul, Editing by Susanna Twidale)