EghtesadOnline: A two-day international forum dubbed “Export Promotion Through the Caspian Sea” opened in the northern Amirabad Port, Mazandaran Province, on Wednesday.
The event is attended by officials from Iran as well as eight countries, namely Russia, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, India and Afghanistan.
“The littoral states of the Caspian Sea only use one-fifth of the capacity of Caspian ports,” Mohammad Rastad, deputy minister of roads and urban development and director general of Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran, said in an address to the forum, IRNA reported.
Rastad added that Iran’s northern ports have a throughput capacity of around 30 million tons, of which only 5-6 million are used annually, Financial Tribune reported.
“Transit, export and import interactions need to expand between the countries involved,” he was quoted as saying by the news portal of the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development.
According to Siavash Rezvani, director general of Amirabad Port Special Economic Zone, eliminating handicaps in the way of expanding exports to Caspian Sea littoral states through Iran’s northern ports, the role of ports in improving exports and reexports, the legal advantages of free trade zones in improving exports and the significance of international multimodal companies in exports are the main topics of discussion in the forum.
Amirabad: Largest Caspian Port, 3rd Largest in Iran
Amirabad is the largest port facility on the Caspian shore and the third largest port in Iran. It accounts for 60% of the total port activities in northern Iran.
“At present, about 4.5 million tons of commodities are loaded and unloaded annually at the port while its nominal annual throughput capacity stands at 7.5 million tons,” he said.
More than 400,000 tons of commodities were exported from Amirabad Port in the first quarter of the current Iranian year (March 21-June 21), registering a 35% increase compared with the corresponding period of last year.
According to Rezvani, the main exported products were cement and clinker, citrus fruit, gas, construction material and tomato paste.
“The construction of a roll on/roll off facility in Amirabad Port, which will enable freight trains to board commercial ships for the loading and unloading of goods, has had 98% progress and will come on stream by the [fiscal] yearend [March 2019]. The port is already connected to the railroad network,” he said.
Previously in June, Rezvani said the project would be complete by late September.
According to the official, about 19.2 trillion rials ($457.14 million) have been invested in the port so far by the public and private sectors.
In a visit to Amirabad in April last year, Rouhani inaugurated the second development phase of the port, consisting of six new berths with a 4-million-ton capacity, as well as new facilities such as warehouses and grain silos.
Rouhani said the development of Amirabad will contribute to “effective trade relations” with the Caspian Sea littoral states and the Commonwealth of Independent States, referring to its connection to Iran’s rail network as a big development for Iran’s economy.
Plans are underway to expand grain handling facilities to boost its capacity from 7.5 million tons to 18 million tons by 2030. To achieve this, the grain silo capacity will be expanded from 170,000 tons to 500,000 tons.
Its oil storage capacity will be expanded from 16,000 cubic meters to 70,000 cubic meters to support fuel transit activities.
New shipping lines have been launched from Amirabad to the ports of Aktau and Astrakhan in Kazakhstan and Russia respectively, to reduce the time and cost of export to neighboring countries and improve the competitive edge of Iranian products in these markets.
Director General of Mazandaran Industries, Mining and Trade Organization Mohammad Mohammadpour said in June 2016 that Iran and Kazakhstan are working to build a joint venture refinery in Amirabad.