Gulf tanker incidents to raise shippers’ costs, cut traffic

In this picture taken on Tuesday, April 7, 2015, and released by the semi-official Fars News Agency, Iranian warship Alborz, foreground, prepares before leaving Iran's waters, at the Strait of Hormuz. (AP)
Updated 21 July 2019

Gulf tanker incidents to raise shippers’ costs, cut traffic

  • Many of the 2,000 companies operating ships in the region have ordered their vessels to transit the Strait of Hormuz only during the daylight hours and at high speed

WASHINGTON: Recent seizures and attacks aimed at oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz will raise insurance rates for shipping companies and, if unchecked, reduce tanker traffic in the vital waterway, according to energy experts.
Britain’s foreign secretary said that Iranian authorities on Friday seized two ships, one flying under the British flag, the other registered in Liberia. The events occurred in a passageway that carries one-fifth of the world’s crude exports.
“If this kind of problem continues, you might see people start to shy away from the (Persian) Gulf or try to reflag — not be a British tanker,” said energy economist Michael Lynch.
The near-term impact will fall most heavily on the shipping industry in the form of higher insurance rates, said Lynch, who is the president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research Inc.
Richard Nephew, a Columbia University researcher who wrote a book on sanctions, also believes the tanker seizures could create “a real risk premium” for companies that operate in the Gulf and insurers that underwrite them.
“Certainly we’ve seen concern with this in the past on sanctions grounds, and I would imagine security groups would be a far more complicating element,” Nephew said.
On Friday, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said it took the British tanker Stena Impero to an Iranian port because it allegedly violated international shipping regulations. An Iranian news agency said the Liberian-flagged Mesdar was briefly detained and then released after being told to comply with environmental rules.
The seizures marked a sharp escalation of tension in the region that began rising when the Trump administration withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and imposed severe restrictions on Iranian oil exports and other sanctions.

FASTFACT

The British navy seized Iran’s Grace 1 tanker in Gibraltar on July 4 on suspicion of smuggling oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.

Many of the 2,000 companies operating ships in the region have ordered their vessels to transit the Strait of Hormuz only during the daylight hours and at high speed. But only a handful of the companies have halted bookings.
The tensions in the Gulf also pushed oil prices slightly higher. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 0.9 percent to $62.47 a barrel on Friday, while benchmark US crude gained 0.6 percent to settle at $55.63.
There’s a long history of shippers enduring threats in the region.
“There have always been little problems around the Gulf where people will say, ‘You’re in our territorial waters,’ but usually that doesn’t go so far as the seizure of tankers,” Lynch said.


Bank jobs go as HSBC and Emirates NBD reduce costs

Updated 15 November 2019

Bank jobs go as HSBC and Emirates NBD reduce costs

  • Others have also reduced headcount amid economic downturn and property market weakness

DUBAI: HSBC Holdings has laid off about 40 bankers in the UAE and Emirates NBD is cutting around 100 jobs, as banks in the Arab world’s second-biggest economy reduce costs.

The cuts come amid weak economic growth, especially in Dubai, which is suffering from a property downturn.

HSBC’s redundancies came after the London-based bank reported a sharp fall in earnings and warned of a costly restructuring, as interim CEO Noel Quinn seeks to tackle its problems head-on.

HSBC has about 3,000 staff in the UAE, part of a nearly 10,000-strong workforce in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey.

The cuts at Dubai’s largest lender Emirates NBD came in consumer sales and liabilities, one source said, while a second played down the significance of the move.

HSBC and Emirates NBD declined to comment.

“The cuts are part of cost cutting and rationalizing to drive efficiencies in a challenging market,” the second source said.

Other banks have also reduced staff this year. UAE central bank data shows local banks laid off 446 people in the 12 months until the end of September. Foreign banks added staff in the same period.

Staff at local banks account for over 80 percent of the 35,518 banking employees in the country.

The merger between Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Union Commercial Bank and Al Hilal Bank saw hundreds of redundancies.

Commercial Bank International (CBI) said it would offer voluntary retirement to employees in September, which sources said saw over 100 departures. Standard Chartered, too, cut over 100 jobs in the UAE in September.

Rating agency Fitch warned in September a weakening property market would put more pressure on the UAE’s banking sector.