Domestic Economy

New Transit Corridor to Europe Bypasses Turkey

New Transit Corridor  to Europe Bypasses Turkey New Transit Corridor  to Europe Bypasses Turkey

Iran has discussed the establishment of a new transit corridor to Europe—an alternative to the current route that passes through Turkey—with Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Italy and Greece, says director general of Iran Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization’s Transit and Border Terminals Bureau.

“It has been decided that we draft a preliminary agreement and send to the six [aforementioned] states. The final agreement will then be signed by their transport ministers accordingly,” Mohammad Javad Atrchian was quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency on Tuesday.

Although the Turkish transit route, due to the country’s geopolitical status, has been a convenient choice for Iranian transport companies, a series of problems over the past few years have compelled Tehran to think of an alternative route.

Over the past year, Tehran and Ankara have been grappling with a longstanding transit dispute, arising from different fuel prices in Iran and Turkey. The issue prompted the government to take a variety of actions from charging Turkish trucks a fee to compensate the considerably low fuel prices in Iran to sealing the Turkish trucks’ fuel tanks at the Bazargan-Dogubayazit border crossing.

The common border has frequently been the scene of traffic congestion with transit trucks queuing at the border in lines reaching 15 kilometers at times. Agreements reached between the neighboring countries’ customs officials have done little to help solve the problem.

Border security is another issue hindering transit via Turkey. Back in August, several Iranian trucks became the target of arson attacks in Turkey, which Ankara blamed on armed forces affiliated to Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The Iranian government demanded Ankara to guarantee the safety of Iranian trucks, but the results were found to be unsatisfactory, which led to lack of confidence in Turkey’s ability to stem the violence. Consequently, Iran's Ministry of Roads and Urban Development advised companies shipping to Europe to avoid routes passing through Turkey.

The ministry has temporarily advised truck drivers to take two alternative routes: one through Azerbaijan, Russia and Belarus; and another through Armenia, Georgia, the Black Sea and then into Romania or Bulgaria.

Nonetheless, compared to the regular Turkish route through the Bazargan-Dogubayazit border, the proposed routes end up being more expensive and lengthy, as they entail switching to naval routes or making a long detour. The highway running through Armenia also crosses four mountain passes, a feature not shared by the relatively flat Turkish route.

The recent negotiations with Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Italy and Greece are centered around a new transit corridor passing through Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, the Black Sea, Bulgaria, Greece and Italy.

Trucks will be shipped by RoRo (Roll-on/roll-off) ships from Georgia to Bulgaria across the Black Sea. The same method can also be used for trucks shipping goods from Greece’s southern ports to Italy using the Mediterranean Sea.

“The government has not yet assessed the costs and time of transportation via the new transit corridor,” said Atrchian, adding that these assessments and the number of RoRo vessels and other infrastructure developments are yet to be discussed with the target countries.