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EghtesadOnline: Chabahar Free Zone in southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan Province will host the International Conference on Investment Opportunities in Makran on January 23-24.

Iraj Tajeddin, a spokesman of Makran Investment Organization, was quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency that the event aims to introduce investment opportunities in Makran to domestic and foreign investors.

Makran is a semi-desert coastal strip stretching along southeastern Iran to Pakistan’s Balochistan and borders the coasts of Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman. It is home to the strategic port of Chabahar, which Iran intends to develop by attracting private and public sector investments.

Makran’s coasts have been earmarked as a prime location for development, as its location makes it ideal for becoming a commercial hub in southern Iran.

According to Tajeddin, the confab will include expert panels to discuss investment opportunities in a wide range of sectors, including but not limited to oil and gas, seafood and agriculture, mining, tourism, transportation, ports and urban development, petrochemicals, water and energy, Financial Tribune reported.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has called the semi-desert region an “undiscovered treasure”. In 2008, he said Iran focused all of its attention on the Persian Gulf and ignored “our enormous wealth in the Sea of Oman”.

This body of water, he noted, is “the backbone of the Persian Gulf and determines its fate”.

The region has high potential for sea trade. It can provide Iran access to the Indian Ocean and an outlet to the sea for landlocked countries in South and Central Asia. It can also be an alternative route to deliver goods to Iran bypassing the Strait of Hormuz.

First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri said in May that Iran needs to build new oil terminals along its southern coasts to meet its rising crude export capacity, as it aims to challenge rival producers.

“There are key strategic plans for the [development of] coasts of Makran, such as embarking on shipping crude oil outside the Persian Gulf and from the southeastern coasts,” he said.

Jahangiri’s statements were a fresh call for diversifying the country’s oil terminals that are largely concentrated in the Persian Gulf.

In contrast, Iran’s Makran coasts have barely developed into trade and shipping hotspots, save for the port city of Jask that is slowly turning into an oil and gas terminal.

New oil loading facilities at Makran would significantly reduce shipping costs for Iranian and international vessels, sparing them a lengthy voyage through the Strait of Hormuz all the way to Iran’s main oil and gas terminals in Asalouyeh, Kharg and Mahshahr on the westernmost side of the Persian Gulf.

Kambiz Gohari, the head of the provincial chapter of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, said drawing on the potential for marine tourism along Makran’s coasts is essential to developing the local economy.

“Investing in infrastructure along the coasts will help the region realize its potential for marine tourism,” he said.

To that end, the provincial ICHHTO has been working closely with Chabahar Free Zone Organization and Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization.

Gohari said the government’s commitment toward this joint effort heralds a bright future for tourism in Makran.

Plans have also been devised to establish seven holiday resorts along the coast.

Keynote speakers in the upcoming confab include Jahangiri, along with government spokesman and head of Planning and Budget Organization, Mohammad Baqer Nobakht, Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi; Minister of Industries, Mining and Trade Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh; Agriculture Minister Mahmoud Hojjati; Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian; President of Iranian Mines & Mining Industries Development & Renovation Mehdi Karbasian; President of Securities and Exchange Organization Shapour Mohammadi; and the head of the Supreme Council of Iran’s Free Trade, Industries and Special Economic Zones, Akbar Torkan.

Chabahar port Makran Confab