EghtesadOnline: "Chabahar Day" was marked in the strategic Iranian port city located in the southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan Province in the presence of representatives of 17 countries, including Afghanistan and India, on Feb. 26.
According to Managing Director of Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization Mohammad Rastad, the event was held for introducing the port's operational capacities and showcasing the economic opportunities Chabahar could offer businesspeople and investors, the Roads Ministry's news service reported.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated the first phase of Chabahar Port in December 2017, opening a new strategic route connecting Iran, India and Afghanistan.
Chabahar is Iran’s only oceanic port town and consists of two separate ports: 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), allows the docking of super-large container ships (between 100,000 DWT and 120,000 DWT) and increase India’s connectivity with Afghanistan, according to Financial Tribune.
"Other major developments in Chabahar over the past year were the purchase of equipment such as six grain suction machines worth €17.5 million and finalizing investment deals with private sector-run companies worth €240 million. Over the period, ship loading and reloading at Chabahar Port increased by 50% to register the best performance among Iran’s ports," Rastad said.
“India-Chabahar-Bandar Abbas container route was launched recently and so far two vessels have navigated this seaway."
Two months ago, the Indian Ports Global Ltd opened its office in Chabahar and Iran officially leased the operational control of Shahid Beheshti port to India. The accession of the ports of Shahid Beheshti and Shahid Kalantari to Iran’s free trade zones was approved by the High Council of Free Zones and will be discussed by the parliament in the near future.
Noting that Chabahar offers the best tariff incentives for ports and maritime services among other ports of the Sea of Oman and the Persian Gulf, Rastad invited domestic and foreign economic operatives to invest in the port’s development projects that are drawn up in the form of long-term build–operate–transfer contracts.
On Sunday, Afghanistan launched a new export route that will allow goods from the country to travel to India through Chabahar.
According to Afghan President's Spokesman Haroon Chakhansuri, the shipment, which contained 23 trucks carrying 570 tons of goods, docked at Chabahar on Tuesday.
Behrouz Aqaei, director general of Ports and Maritime Organization of Sistan-Baluchestan Province, said Chabahar Day was organized to coincide with the docking at the port, Fars News Agency reported.
“Chabahar has no restriction when it comes to handling super-large container ships. It is our goal to set the stage for safe, inexpensive and swift delivery of commodities such as minerals from Afghanistan to India through Chabahar. Projects to finish the second phase of Chabahar Port as well as its oil and petrochemical sectors offer great investment opportunities in this port town,” he said.
"When it comes to competitiveness, Chabahar is the best route for Afghanistan’s mineral trade."
Highlighting the importance of the port while speaking from Kabul, the Afghan spokesman said, “Chabahar Port is the result of healthy cooperation among India, Iran and Afghanistan. This will ensure enhanced connectivity and economic growth for the countries.”
Chabahar Port is being considered as a gateway to golden opportunities by India, Iran and Afghanistan for trade with Central Asian countries, besides ramping up trade among the three countries in the wake of Pakistan denying transit access to New Delhi.
Under the agreement signed between India and Iran earlier, India is to equip and operate two berths in Chabahar Port's Phase-I with capital investment of $85.21 million and annual revenue expenditure of $22.95 million on a 10-year lease.
Underlying the importance of filling in the missing links like the rail connectivity between Chabahar and the Central Asian countries to improve cooperation, Gopal Krishna, deputy CEO of Indian Shipping Ministry, who was also present at the Chabahar Day ceremony in Iran, said his country is planning to increase investment in Chabahar from $85 million to $150 million.
Pointing to the exemption of Chabahar from US sanctions, Krishna noted that the opportunity can be used for the development of Afghanistan.
The United States has excluded the development of Chabahar Port in Iran from its “maximum-pressure” sanctions reimposed against Tehran on Nov. 5, 2018.