EghtesadOnline: On Sunday, President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated the first phase of Chabahar’s Shahid Beheshti Port in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, in the presence of some 70 visiting dignitaries from 17 countries.
In the president's words, the inauguration of the first phase of Shahid Beheshti Port marks a historic day for Iran, particularly for the people of Chabahar, IRNA reported.
"Chabahar will turn into the biggest port of the country in the future and would be of considerable significance both politically and economically. The project is specifically important, as it connects the trade corridors passing through Iran to the ocean,” he said.
A total of $1 billion is being invested in the first phase of the Chabahar development project, a joint international project billed as an “International Gateway” by Iranian officials who have invested $403 million (up until now) from the National Development Fund of Iran in the project and gained the approval of India to invest $85 million to complete the project, according to Financial Tribune.
Chabahar is Iran’s only oceanic port town and consists of two separate ports named Shahid Kalantari and Shahid Beheshti. The opening of the first phase of Shahid Beheshti Port (out of five phases defined for the project), which has tripled its capacity to 8.5 million tons (equal to that of all the northern ports of the country), will allow the docking of super-large container ships (between 100,000 DWT and 120,000 DWT) and increase India’s connectivity with Afghanistan.
Chabahar provides India with an easy land-sea linkup with Afghanistan.
Giving a boost to bilateral ties between India and Iran, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made an unannounced visit to Tehran, while returning from Sochi in Russia, ahead of the inauguration of the strategically important port.
Over a month ago, India sent the first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan through Chabahar Port, which Swaraj remarked as a gift from Indians to Afghans.
The Indian government has committed $500 million to Chabahar, with the aim of joining an increasingly important transport corridor to resource-rich regional countries, according to Indian sources.
Swaraj said India remains committed to working closely with its regional and international partners to restore peace, security, stability and prosperity to Afghanistan.
India, Iran and Afghanistan recently signed an agreement to give Indian goods, heading toward Central Asia and Afghanistan, preferential treatment and tariff reductions at Chabahar.
Upon the completion of the five phases of Shahid Beheshti development project, which also includes a railroad (Chabahar-Zahedan) to connect to the International North-South Transportation Corridor, the port's capacity will reach 85 million tons and that would improve Iran’s transit services and facilitate trade between Europe and Central Asia through Iran.
India has an agreement with Iran to build a 500-km railroad from Chabahar to Zahedan, the provincial capital of Sistan-Baluchestan, close to the Afghan border. India’s state-owned IRCON has agreed to build a rail route at a cost of $1.6 billion as part of the transit corridor to Afghanistan.
After connecting Chabahar to Zahedan, the railroad will be linked to Zaranj in Afghanistan. Hence, when the Afghan cargo arrives in Zahedan, it can be transported by a 1,380-km railroad to Chabahar and then shipped to India.
Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi said investments worth 40 trillion rials ($1 billion) are needed to connect Chabahar to Iran's national railroad.
“Chabahar should also have road, rail and airport to be all set for imports and exports,” he added.
According to Managing Director of Ports and Maritime Organization Mohammad Rastad, with the opening of the port's Phase 1, close to 800 direct jobs and 20,000 indirect jobs have been generated.
Transit via Chabahar’s Shahid Beheshti Port is $1,000 cheaper than ports of Pakistan and even 15 million rials ($375) cheaper than Shahid Rajaee Port, Iran’s biggest container port at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz, the director general of Ports and Maritime Organization of Sistan-Baluchestan Province, Behrouz Aqaei, said.
In a trilateral meeting attended by Akhoundi, Afghanistan's Trade and Commerce Minister Humayoon Rasaw and India's Minister of State (Shipping) Pon Radhakrishnan, the three sides reviewed and positively assessed the progress in the development of Chabahar Port and reiterated their commitment to complete the port at the earliest, as it would contribute to bilateral and regional trade and economic development, and provide alternate access to landlocked Afghanistan to regional and global markets.
The three sides also commended the recent joint efforts that led to the transit of first tranche of 110,000 tons of wheat from India to Afghanistan through Chabahar Port. The ministers agreed to further intensify efforts on issues concerning regional connectivity and to focus on Chabahar Port development under the May 2016 Trilateral Transit and Trade Agreement.