EghtesadOnline: For the first time, all five berths of Chabahar’s Shahid Beheshti Port have been serving eight vessels simultaneously since last week, Hossein Ebrahimi, an official with Sistan-Baluchestan Ports and Maritime Organization, said on Sunday.
“The rising containerized traffic at Chabahar Port is a harbinger of economic development in Iran’s southeastern coasts,” he was quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency.
Last Wednesday, a wheat shipment arrived at Chabahar from India en route to Afghanistan.
The 435 TEU containers holding 10,000 tons of wheat were delivered by the ship Kashan from India, as the second part of India’s new round of aid package to Afghanistan.
The consignment was part of India’s pledge to deliver 75,000 tons of wheat as humanitarian aid to Afghanistan via the road to Milak, a border city on the Afghan border, according to Behrouz Aqaei, the head of Sistan-Baluchestan’s Ports and Maritime Organization.
The first batch of 5,000 tons was delivered via Chabahar over 12 days, he added.
Chabahar is of high strategic importance for Iran, as it is the country’s only oceanic port, which bypasses the narrow choke point of Strait of Hormuz connected to the Persian Gulf.
The port, run by India Ports Global Limited, is only 70 kilometers west of Gwadar Port, the starting point of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. China Overseas Port Holding Company operates Gwadar Port.
In May 2016, India and Iran signed an agreement under which India would refurbish one of the berths at Shahid Beheshti Terminal and rebuild a 600-meter-long container handling facility there.
In December last year, India took over operations of part of Shahid Beheshti Port.
The first phase of Shahid Beheshti Port development project was inaugurated in December 2017 by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, opening a new strategic route connecting Iran, India and Afghanistan.
India has earmarked Rs100 crore ($13.98 million) for the strategic Chabahar Port project in southeastern Iran, which gives India connectivity to Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan.
The total aid to countries has decreased by about Rs56 crore ($7.83 million) from Rs6,963 ($973.85 million) in the revised estimates of 2019-20 to Rs6,907 crore ($966 million) in the 2020-21 budget, Indian digital news online newspaper ThePrint reported.
The aid for the strategically-important Chabahar Port, which was zero in the revised estimates of 2019-20, has gone up to Rs100 crore for the next fiscal year.
The port complex, backed by India, on Iran’s coast along the Sea of Oman is being developed to provide an alternative trade route between India and Afghanistan.
The National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company has recently ordered the construction of a 50,000-ton wharf at Chabahar, which has an oil storage facility. The NIOPDC earlier announced its intent to build a new oil terminal at Chabahar.
Once the wharf is ready, it will allow vessels to dock near the Shahid Shoushtari oil storage facility at the port.
In 2009, India had constructed a road from Chabahar to Afghanistan, to link Herat and Kandahar, as well as with Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh Province in the north—the gateway to Uzbekistan.
India also intends to build a 900-km railroad from Chabahar Port to resource-rich Bamiyan Province. An Indian consortium has won the contract to mine the Hajigak iron ore deposits in Bamiyan Province, 130 km west of Kabul, Thehindu.com reported.
Rise in Private Investment
Seven contracts by the private sector worth more than 4,080 billion rials ($23.44 million) were finalized at Chabahar Port in the last Iranian year (March 2019-20), indicating a 20% rise compared with the year before.
According to Hossein Shahdadi, a senior official with Sistan-Baluchestan Ports and Maritime Organization, these investments will be made in various fields, including the construction of petroleum and liquefied natural gas reservoirs, multi-purpose warehouses and truck cleaning and disinfecting sites.
“Plans are to conclude five new contracts worth 2,500 billion rials ($14.36 million) in the first half of the current year (March 20-Sept. 21),” Shahdadi was quoted as saying by the news outlet of the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development.
Chabahar is Iran’s only oceanic port town and consists of two separate terminals: Shahid Kalantari and Shahid Beheshti. The opening of first phase, namely Shahid Beheshti terminal (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 increases India’s connectivity with Afghanistan
Cooperation With Japan, UNIDO to Expand Fishing
Iran, Japan and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization will cooperate for the expansion of fishing industry in Chabahar.
For this purpose, a cooperation agreement for five joint projects was signed by the three sides in Austria’s capital Vienna in the presence of the director general of UNIDO, ambassadors and permanent representatives of Japan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, South Africa and Uganda, Mehr News Agency reported on Saturday.
Under the agreement, the third phase of development project worth €180,000 has been defined.
Earlier, phases one and two of this project valued at €680,000 were concluded, all funded by the Japanese government.
At the Friday ceremony, Iran’s permanent representative to Vienna-based international organizations, Kazem Gharibabadi, pointed to the strategic status of Chabahar and described this port as a center of developing the eastern part of the country through the expansion of transit routes between countries in the Northern Indian Ocean and Central Asia.
He also emphasized the importance of international cooperation for sustainable development of countries and countering the challenges facing economic development through the exchange of knowledge, transfer of technology and capacity building as well as removal of restrictions and illegal sanctions in this field.