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Iranian Nuclear Powered Merchant Ship

In was reported 16 July 2012 that an Iranian parliamentary committee had approved legislation to require the Islamic Republic to design nuclear-powered merchant ships and provide them with nuclear fuel. Iranian military officials had also earlier informed that the country is designing a nuclear submarine. Either step would require Iran to enrich uranium to higher levels than the 20% has already achieve, much closer to weapons-grade. While the United States, Japan, and Germany built experimental nuclear powered merchant ships in the heady days of the 1960s, they were soon retired after a few years of indifferent service. Russia continues to operate a small fleet of nuclear powered icebreakers, but Iran would seem to have little call for icebreakers. Argentina may [or may not] have announced plans for a nuclear powered icebreaker, but this plan, should it exist, is widely regarded as a cover story for an attempt to restart Argentina's nuclear weapons program.

MP Mohammad Bayatian was quoted by Mehr News Agency [MNA] as saying sanctions are forcing Iran to use different fuel for its oil tankers and other large vessels, to avert the need to refuel during long voyages. Another lawmaker, Mehrdad Bazrpash also told FNA on Sunday that "a bill has come on the agenda of the parliament's Industries Commission which requires the mines and industries sector of the government to seriously focus on new technological plans for oil tankers and warships' engines". Bazrpash said according to the plan, the country's oil tankers and warships should be able to sail long distances without any need to refueling in those countries which refrain from providing Iranian vessels with fuel due to the sanctions. Bayatian said the bill has been approved by a parliamentary committee and will be debated in the house next week. "Given the sanctions that enemies have imposed against our country, the bill must be enacted," he said.

A commentary by, which reflects the views of some Iranian hardliners, notes that "... in recent years several news reports are published from some countries such as the United States and China towards nuclear propulsion for commercial vessels. Progress in the technology of commercial nuclear power leads to lower production costs, increase safety, reduce the need for refueling... [are] the advantage of this type of propulsion for civilian ships. ... Although the cost of building a nuclear propulsion ship relative to fossil fuel with the same overall cost is more, the course of its life is much less than the conventional propulsion.... What should be is the noted amount of enrichment of the nuclear fuel needed for nuclear marine propulsion. For example, the new OK-900A reactors in the Russian fleet ice breakers used fuel of .. an average of 60 percent and a reactor uses on the ship Sevmorput KLT-40, typically with a 30 to 40 percent of the uranium.... So to achieve nuclear propulsion, nuclear industry of the country will inevitably promote the enrichment of nuclear reactors to the amount of average means 50-60%."

Iran's feeble potential for shipbuilding would not plausibly support construction of a nuclear powered commercial surface vessel. Iran’s technology transfer from China, North Korea and Russia is well known. In addition, its indigenous shipbuilding efforts, while modes, have proven marginally fruitful. But Iran's shipbuilding infrastructure remains rudimentary [primitive is another word that comes to mind], and after a decade of effort less than a handful of commercial ships of an appreciable size have been produced, after quite protracted building schedules. These container ships are perhaps the simplest type of commercial ship design.

Iranian Shipbuilding Industry

Iran has thousands of kilometers of coastlines at the north and the south put together. In both the northern and southern waters, the Caspian, and the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman, and especially in the south, there is heavy traffic of ships and cargo which provides ideal conditions for a shipbuilding/repair industry to develop. Tranditional shipbuilding was confined to wooden ships, down to late 19th century, although the wooden sail driven (wind-powered) shipsbecame very sophistical in the West, particularly from the Renaissance period onwards. With the advent of steel as the material for building the hull, and steam engines as the source of the driving power, the 20th century witnessed a long line of increasingly more sophisticated ships emerging one after another, and traditional shipbuilders lost the technological competition.

In the early 1970s the Iranian shipbuilding industry began its activities with the construction of the first and then the largest Middle Eastern shipbuilding yard, under the name of Persian Gulf Shipbuilding Complex (PGSC). It was aimed at building and repairing ships and tankers of up to 250,000 ton capacity. The yard was situated in Bostano, a port 50 km from Bandar Abbas. At the 1972 Tehran International Exhibition a very large and impressive stand of the “Persian Gulf Shipbuilding Complex” displayed a large model of the shipyard. Said to be the largest project in the Middle East, the shipyard planned to build 250,000 ton tankers and 60,000 ton bulk carriers and… in Bandar Abbas. The company is now some four decades old and during its lifetimehas spent some 1.2 billion dollars, which makes it one of the largest Iranian entities as far as investment is concerned. Unfortunately, despite such expenditures, the company had not made any significant achievement thus far.

A few years after the establishment of the PGSC shipyard, an American company built a small shipyard in Bushehr named Iranian Marine Industry Co which was equipped with a 750 ton synchrolift. The company seriously and very actively became involved in ship repair and began to construct small vessels, tugboats in particular. Following the Islamic Revolution this company was transferred to the Iranian state and presently operates under the name of Sadra Co. This company is now fully developed and has established a number of shipyards along the southern and northern coasts of Iran and has thus far built a considerable number of fishing vessels, tugboats, barges, and specially oil production platforms and oil rigs. In addition, there are several other shipbuilding entities in Bandar Abbas, and one named Arvandan in Khorramshahr, all of which build small vessels.

Sadra Industrial Island is located in Bushehr, souther Iran. SADRA also known as "Iran Marine Industrial Company" was founded in 1968 as a small ship repair yard in Bushehr. Since then, SADRA has established itself as the leading shipbuilding and ship repairing company in Iran. SADRA is also active in offshore oil & gas development. SADRA specializes in building ships, docks and floating oil rigs. Sadra Group is a sister company of Iran's state-owned Iran Shipbuilding and Offshores Industries Complex Co. (ISOICO). In 2005 it was reported that Iran's shipbuilding company Sadra Group was to build four cargo ships, worth 100 million euros, for the north German-based Rickmers shipping lines. The ships were to be used for freight transport from Europe and the US to the Middle East as well as to Pakistan and India. As of April 2009, the IRGC-controlled construction conglomerate, Khatam al-Anbia owns a controlling stake in SADRA.

Arvandan Shipbuilding Company (ASC) is a subsidiary of Industrial Development & Renovation Organization (IDRO) of Iran that started its activities for manufacturing aluminium vessels in cooperation with U.S. Peterson Co. in 1973. After the Islamic Revolution, Arvandan manufactured close to 100 various steel and aluminium vessels and this has brought the company a widespread reputation, particularly in the Persian Gulf. ASC was active in repair and maintenance of aluminium and steel vessels, manufacture of passenger and cargo vessels and even high-speed vessels for coast guards, design, construction, installation and repair of offshore structures such as oil platforms, and providing marine equipments and materials. There are only seven companies worldwide capable of manufacturing aluminium vessels and Arvandan was one of them. Arvandan was capable of producing six aluminium vessels per year with varying lengths of 10 m to 50 m. As for steel vessels, the company was capable of manufacturing three vessels on an annual basis. The company's website was online for a few years from 2003, but was taken offline in early 2007 - the yard had been building InCat 46 m catamarans for Valfajre 8 Ship Co. during this period.

Bandar Abbas is the largest and most strategically-located naval base in Iran. It is on the mainland north of the Strait of Hormuz, approximately 30 NM from the shipping lane center. It is the headquarters of the Iranian Navy and responsible for the 1st Naval District. A major portion of Iranian shipbuilding facilities and dockyards are located here as well as many major naval assets.

Iran Shipbuilding & Offshore Industries Complex Co (ISOICO), the biggest shipping company in Middle East, is an Iranian shipyard, located in the Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, active as shipbuilder and ship-repairer of different types of vessels and offshore structures. ISOICO is a subsidiary of the state-controlled Industrial Development and Renovation Organization of Iran [IDRO], controlled by the Revolutionary Guards Corps. Iran Shipbuilding & Offshore Industries Complex Co., Tehran, Iran. [ISOICO] is a qualified Iranian company, active as shipbuilder and shiprepairer of different types of vessels and contractor of offshore structures. We operate from our production premises in Persian Gulf (37 km west Bandar Abbas City) easily shipping to any location offshore or onshore. Activity of the Company started in 1995 years ago as a workshop and a yard. The experience gained in more than 3 years of operation enable the yead to enlarge the sphere of activity to plants and mechanical plant components, then to multidisciplinary projects. Although the offshore experiences is short but ISOICO has played an important role in offshore market, constructing in its Bandar Abbas Yard.

As of May 2003, it was projected that when the second phase of Iran Shipbuilding & Offshore Industries Complex Company’s (ISOICO) expansion project was complete, it would be able to construct big VLCC and LNG ships. The contract for the construction of six cargo ships had already brought the complex’s capacity to 70,000 tons.

As of May 2003 ISOICO was constructing two oil carrying vessels capable of transporting 35,000 tons each. The project costs amount to some $50 million and it is being conducted with assistance from Korean advisors. In 2003 Reza Veyseh, Managing Director of the Industrial Development and Renovation Organization (IDRO) signed a contract for the construction of two ships to carry oil consignments between ISOICO and Iran’s National Oil-Carrier Company (NOCC). As of 2003 Iran’s National Oil-Carrier Company (NOCC) owns fifteen 300,000-ton VLCC vessels, five 150,000-ton Suezmax ships, five 98,000-ton vessels, a number of 69,000-ton Panamax ships, several 25,000-ton cargo ships, an LPG-carrier, and an assortment of 27 offshore vessels that provide services to the offshore oil platforms and jetties.

In May 2006 (Mehr News Agency reported that Iran Shipbuilding and Offshore Industries Complex Co. (ISOICO) had managed to conclude an agreement worth $5 billion on the development of marine industries and shipbuilding with Venezuela, noted Iran's deputy industries and mines minister Mohsen Shaterzadeh. Also, Iran, Venezuela and Bolivia also signed a trilateral memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the expansion of the shipbuilding industries.

The first Iranian-made large ocean-going vessel, dubbed as "Iran-Arak", was launched to the high seas in the Persian Gulf, on 20 August 2009. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attended in the launching ceremony which was held also in the presence of the minister of industries & mines in the Bandar Abbas. After the launching ceremony, the ocean-going ship began its first voyage in the Persian Gulf waters. The Iranian ocean liner is 185 meters long, 30 meters wide, and has the capacity of carrying over 30,000 tons of cargo, or some 2,200 containers. It was made by Iran Shipbuilding & Offshore Industries Company (ISOICO). The Iran-Arak was the first of the 5 ocean container ships which Industrial Development & Renovation Organization of Iran (IDRO) was scheduled to build. Another ship named Iran-Shahr-e-kord was launched "tentatively". Minister of Industries and Mines Ali-Akbar Mehrabian said in the ceremony that 40 industries are directly related with the shipbuilding industry. For the next two decades, Iran will need to add 500 ships to its fleet, including 120 oil tankers. Domestic production will cost 14 billion Euro, however, if the ships are bought from abroad the cost will triple to 42 billion Euro.

ISOCO had delivered the 30,000-tone “Iran-Arak” ocean liner to the Islamic Republic of Iran and two other similar ships dubbed “Iran-Shahrekord” and “Iran- Kashan” were under construction by the company. Iran planned to launch its second indigenous ocean-going vessel, named Iran-Shahrekord, by the end of March 2012. The Deputy Minister of Industries and Chairman of the IDRO Board of Directors Majid Hedayat said that “Iran-Shahrekord”, the second Iranian ocean-going vessel, would be launched into water by the end of Iranian calendar year, noting that Iran Shipbuilding & Offshore Industries Complex Co (ISOICO) is trying to deliver the vessel by the end of the year in order to fulfill the promises made by Industry, Mine and Trade minister.

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