October 19 - According to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), Iran is planning a fleet expansion programme comprising 579,000 teu of containerships, 2 million dwt of dry bulk vessels and 1.6 million dwt of tankers - all of which are sched

The statement of intent to modernise and expand Iran's national fleet, primarily through newbuildings, will be financed through funds reported to exceed USD120 billion, which are currently frozen internationally due to sanctions.

IRISL says that it is also discussing the possibility of alliances as part of the planned expansion strategy, and is already pursuing talks with the Shipping Corporation of India regarding the revival of the Irano-Hind joint venture that was wound up in 2013 due to restrictions on trade.

Speaking to Lloyds List, the newly appointed head of IRISL, Mohammad Saeidi, said that the Iranian government is confident that all restrictions will be lifted in January 2016, and Iran will prioritise "an immediate and significant return to shipping".

According to Saeidi, a series of major newbuilding contracts will be signed in a matter of weeks, as Iran taps significant funds built up in China, South Korea, Japan and India through trading during sanctions.

Iran plans to use the currently frozen funds to place the planned newbuilding orders, predominantly in China, where Saeidi suggests the country's existing relationships with Chinese banks will allow IRISL to place favourable orders at the country's shipyards. South Korean yards are also under consideration, as are some secondhand purchases, said IRISL.

IRISL claims that no definitive tonnage specifics have been made yet, but Saeidi has suggested that final decisions will be made in the coming weeks.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Saeidi - who was formerly deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) - said that within three years he expects the trade between Iran and the EU to reach pre-sanctions levels. He also expressed a desire to see Iranian vessels gain access to US ports for the first time since 1979.