Economy, Business And Markets

Iran Seeks Alternative Transit Route to Europe

Iran Seeks Alternative Transit Route to EuropeIran Seeks Alternative Transit Route to Europe

Turkey will not remain Iran’s main transit route to Europe unless security is restored to the country, said the director general of Iran Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization’s Transit and Border Terminals Bureau.

Mohammad Javad Atrchian added that it is inevitable for the Islamic Republic to consider alternative transit routes, ISNA reported.

“Iranian truck drivers have been attacked on the Turkish soil several times in the past. They once again came under assault last week on two occasions,” he said.

Last week, attackers torched two Iranian trucks carrying paint shipments in Turkey’s Caldiran district close to Iranian borders. No group has claimed the attacks yet.

Likewise, several Iranian trucks became the target of arson attacks and gunfires in Turkey last year. Ankara blamed the incidents on armed forces affiliated to Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

The Iranian government called on Ankara to guarantee the safety of Iranian trucks, but the results were found to be unconvincing, which led to lack of confidence on the part of Iranian authorities in Turkey’s ability to stem the violence.

“The Turkish government must be held accountable for the attacks. It should take serious actions to ensure the security of the country,” Atrchian said.

The official noted that the Iranian government has demanded compensation from the Turkish government for truck drivers who suffered losses.

Security has not been the only issue Tehran and Ankara grappled with over the past year. The two sides have also been engaged in a longstanding transit dispute arising from different fuel prices in Iran and Turkey.

The issue prompted the government to take a series of actions, from charging Turkish trucks a fee to compensate for the considerably low 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 heavy traffic congestion, with transit trucks queuing in lines reaching 15 kilometers at times. Agreements reached between the neighboring countries’ customs officials have done little to resolve the problem.

Iran’s Ministry of Roads and Urban Development has on several occasions advised truck drivers and transit companies to take alternative routes, including one through Azerbaijan, Russia, Belarus, Poland and Germany; and another through Armenia, Georgia, the Black Sea and then into Romania, Bulgaria and Italy.

  Weighing Pros and Cons

The advantages and disadvantages of using these corridors have been under review by Iranian officials and those in the countries along the routes.

Atrchian said the officials of Iran, Georgia and Bulgaria are scheduled to meet in the near future to further discuss the proposed corridors.

The Turkish transit route, however, has been a convenient choice for Iranian transport companies, as the neighboring country’s strategic location shortens the path and lowers costs.

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.

Nonetheless, Atrchian believes that safety should be a priority for Iranian trucks, adding that the negotiations are centered on reducing transit costs and red tape.

So far, Iran has been able to convince Georgia and Azerbaijan to waiver visa requirement from Iranian truck drivers. Talks are also underway with Armenia in this regard, according to the official.

Atrchian said the route through the Black Sea sounds more promising. 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 implementation of the corridor will help utilize the growing trade opportunities among countries in Europe, Middle East and Central Asia by creating an efficient and reliable freight transport connection,” said Bulgaria’s Minister of Transport, Information Technology and Communications Ivaylo Moskovski who visited Iran back in March.

There are roadblocks to developing this corridor though.

“There is a mountainous area in the way and a very heavy investment will be needed to develop this project,” he said.

Moskovski noted that Bulgaria is ready to provide the corridor project with the logistics and engineering services, emphasizing that Bulgarian engineers are well-positioned to undertake feasibility and preparatory studies in addition to railroad designing and planning.

The European country has also established a permanent ferry connection between Bulgaria and Georgia through the Black Sea, further boosting trade and transportation through the corridor.