EghtesadOnline: More than 60% of Iran’s trade with the neighboring Afghanistan are conducted through Dogharoun border checkpoint located in Iran’s eastern Khorasan Razavi Province, according to the head of Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization.
“Dogharoun is not only significant trade-wise, but is also an important strategic checkpoint for the two countries. It is also the main gateway for Iranian and Afghan passengers. Plans for renovating and overhauling the border crossing’s infrastructure and facilities are underway and will begin in the near future,” Daryoush Amani was also quoted as saying by the news portal of the Ministry of Roads and urban Development.
The Roads Ministry has stepped up plans to renovate Dogharoun after a fuel tanker exploded on Feb. 13 in a parking lot on the Afghan side of the border (Islam Qala crossing in Afghanistan’s Herat Province).
A total of 2,500 tons of goods are exported to Afghanistan through Dogharoun in the border city of Taybad on a daily basis, according to Karim Navaei-Nezami, a local official.
“The main exported goods include cement, rebar, fuel and liquefied gas that are shipped to Afghanistan by 100 trucks every day,” he was quoted as saying by IRNA.
The official noted that an average of 2,000 tons of goods are transited to Afghanistan daily with around 80 trucks.
“These transited goods, mainly including auto parts, vegetable oil and textile, cross into Dogharoun through Hormozgan’s Shahid Rajaee Port and West Azarbaijan Province’s Bazargan border crossing,” he said.
According to the official, Dogharoun is currently Iran's fifth busiest border crossing when it comes to exports via road.
Besides Dogharoun, Iran has two other border crossing into Afghanistan, namely Milak in southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan Province and Mahiroud in South Khorasan Province.
More than 200 trucks transport Iranian commodities each day into neighboring Afghanistan, according to Mahmood Kouhgerd, director general of Dogharoun Border Customs Office.
February Fire’s Aftereffects
The crossing was closed for a few days after last month’s fire until Rouhollah Latifi, the spokesman of the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration, announced that all trucks waiting behind Dogharoun border terminal in Khorasan Razavi Province would be allowed to cross the border and enter Afghanistan’s Islam Qala crossing, except for those carrying fuels (gasoline, liquefied petroleum gas and diesel).
“A limited number of trucks carrying perishable goods [fruits and vegetables] were admitted by Islam Qala customs [as the border is called on the Afghan side of the crossing] on Thursday [Feb. 18]. As of Friday [Feb. 19], all 2,000 trucks carrying commercial goods of the total 2,500 trucks stopped at the border following the explosion will be permitted to move across the border and enter the neighboring country. The entry of new consignments into Dogharoun border terminal is still not allowed,” he said.
"Employees of Afghanistan’s Islam Qala customs facility have resumed work and one of the customs scales has become operational to weigh the commercial cargos."
According to Mohsen Jeddi, the head of Dogharoun border market, a total of 1,800 tons of perishable goods were exported to Islam Qala customs by 52 trucks on Feb. 17-18.
The director general of Dogharoun Border Customs Office noted that exports, especially those of perishable goods such as fruits and vegetables, to Afghanistan from the important border crossing were continuing before trade stopped at the border gate.
Trade resumed on February 18 with the passage of more than 30 trucks into Afghanistan, Mehr News Agency reported.
"Dogharoun terminal was not damaged by the fire at the border customs facility of the neighboring country, but due to the critical situation across the border and in order to prevent any further damage, its activities were halted for a short period of time," Jeddi said.
"With the resumption of limited border trade in Dogharoun after trucks carrying perishable export goods entered Afghanistan, it is expected that as a result of the serious and continuous follow-up of Afghan traders, the damage caused to the country's border customs facility are fixed in a short period and cross-border trade returns to normalcy."
Javad Hedayati, a senior official with Iran Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization, told ILNA that Mahiroud border crossing in South Khorasan Province and Milak border crossing in southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan Province [which is the main trade corridor between the two countries] would be readied for a surge of trucks and traffic.
ISNA reported an estimated $50 million loss of goods and consignments in the catastrophe. Yunus Qazizada, the head of Herat Chamber of Commerce, estimated that the losses were twice that much.
$1.2b Worth of Exports in 8 Months
Afghanistan is mostly dependent on imported goods from neighboring countries. Iranian officials have said that they will accelerate customs clearance at other border crossings with Afghanistan.
Latest data show Iran exported $1.2 billion worth of non-oil goods to Afghanistan during the first eight months of the current fiscal year (March 20-Nov. 21).
Iron and steel bars had a major share of the exported products with 177,700 tons worth $70 million, Fars News Agency reported.
Iran also exported 798,100 tons of cement worth $21.4 million to the neighboring country during the period.
The fire was brought under control after three days of efforts by firefighters from both countries, Afghan officials said.
At least 20 people were injured when the explosion that set off a huge fire engulfed many of the hundreds of trucks lined up at the Islam Qala crossing carrying natural gas and fuel. The crossing, around 120 kilometers west of the city of Herat, the provincial capital, is a major transit route between Afghanistan and Iran, AP reported.
The inferno involved two explosions at the border crossing - powerful enough to be spotted from space by NASA satellites - with about half an hour between them. There has been no word so far as to what caused the explosion of the fuel tanker or the subsequent blast. The explosions shut down the power grid in the region, leaving Herat in the dark.
Wahid Qatali, the Herat provincial governor, said more than 2,000 vehicles at the site of the blaze were saved, including 1,500 that rushed across the border into Iran to keep them away from the fire.
“At the time of the blaze, the crossing point, which has a capacity of up to 700 oil trucks, was overcrowded with more than 2,500 trucks,” Qatali said.
Typically, dozens upon dozens of fuel tankers park on the Afghan side of the border while securing permissions to move between the two countries.