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Monday, June 20, 2011

French shipping giant looks to shut down Iran smuggling

Three weeks ago, I reported that French shipping giant CMA CGM may be sanctioned by the United States for violating the embargo against Iran. CMA CGM is telling everyone that it has decided to clean up its act.
Rising US pressure on the company has shaken up its management structure. In Marseille, company officials don’t seem to trust their own monitoring mechanisms and are cautiously promising improvements – probably also to appease the annoyed Americans. A spokesman said it has organized a compliance team exclusively to investigate trade with Iran.

In addition, information technology systems will be upgraded and investigations carried out of all firms used by the company for freight monitoring.

CMA CGM appears to see a US-based conspiracy against its shipping operation. A spokesman told the Post that anti-Iran lobby groups in the United States are targeting CMA CGM. The spokesman views the maritime company as a victim of such a campaign. A second spokesman told the Post that “black PR” is being used to damage the company in the US.

CMA CGM has a lot to lose – during the recent global economic crisis, business with the US and other markets suffered. The company finally had some positive news at the beginning of the year: It will add additional ships to the California-Asia route, in response to increasing demand.

In Norfolk, Virginia, where the CMA CMG has its main US office, the company is building a new headquarters building.

Last year, the company transported more than 9 million containers (twenty-foot equivalent) and generated roughly 10.1 billion euros in revenue. The French company is the third largest shipping container company in the world. The company refused to tell the Post the volume of its Iran trade since 2005. “Shipping companies are not communicating figures like those ones,” it said.
Read the whole thing. This appears to be a rare instance where the sanctions are being used to pursue someone and the company being pursued actually cares about it.

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