EghtesadOnline: Iran's trade (excluding crude oil exports) with Caspian Sea littoral states stood at 5.72 million tons worth $2.51 billion during the current fiscal year’s first nine months (March 21-Dec. 21), according to new data released by the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration.
Russia was Iran’s main trading partner among Caspian states with 3.56 million tons worth $1.66 billion during the period under review. It was followed by Azerbaijan Republic with 647,843 tons worth $420.85 million, Turkmenistan with 1.04 million tons worth $265.131 million and Kazakhstan with 477,938 tons worth $170.5 million.
Iran’s exports hit 2.82 million tons worth $2.9 billion.
Russia was Iran’s biggest export destination with 828,602 tons worth $432.88 million, followed by Azerbaijan with 629,083 tons worth $388.39 million, Turkmenistan with 1 million tons worth $240.32 million and Kazakhstan with 360,318 tons worth $132.57 million.
Imports from the four countries under review hit 2.9 million tons worth $1.32 billion.
Again, Russia was the top exporter to Iran with 2.73 million tons worth $1.22 billion.
Kazakhstan followed Russia with 117,619 tons worth $37.92 million, Azerbaijan with 18,859 tons worth $32.46 million and Turkmenistan with 33,386 tons worth $24.81 million.
Non-oil trade with Caspian states hit 6.24 million tons worth $2 billion in the fiscal 2020-21.
Iran’s total foreign trade (excluding crude oil exports) stood at 122.5 million tons worth $72.1 billion during the nine-month period (March 21-Dec. 21), registering an 11% and 38% year-on-year growth in weight and value respectively.
According to IRICA caretaker, Alireza Moqaddasi, exports hit 92.3 million tons worth $35.1 billion to register an 8% and 40% increase in weight and value respectively compared with last year’s corresponding period.
Imports hit 30.1 million tons worth $37 billion during the period, registering a 20% and 37% growth in weight and value YOY respectively.
Rise in Iran’s Share of Caspian Transport
Iran’s share of marine transportation in the Caspian Sea increased to 38.9% during the last Iranian year (March 2020-21) from 34.9% in the previous year, Mehr News Agency reported.
The country transported 1.92 million tons of freight to ports located along the Caspian Sea during the period.
Among Iranian shipping companies, Khazar Sea Shipping Lines ranked first with 1.5 million tons of transported goods.
Other Iranian companies transported a total of 424,993 tons during the period.
Russia had a 59.9% share with 2.96 million tons of freight transport.
Kazakhstan transported 35,590 tons (0.7%), Azerbaijan 12,834 tons (0.3%) and other countries 11,470 tons (0.2%).
Overall, marine transportation in the Caspian Sea in the year to March 20, 2021, stood at 4.94 million tons, registering a 21.2% decline compared with 6.27 million tons of the year before.
The decline was due to restrictions put in place in the region to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Six New Shipping Routes
Khazar Sea Shipping Lines and the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran (TPO) signed a memorandum of understanding on Oct. 13 to establish six regular shipping routes for the transport of freight between Iran’s northern ports in the Caspian Sea and those of Russia and Kazakhstan.
The signatories, Davoud Tafti, the CEO of Khazar Sea Shipping Lines, and Alireza Peymanpak, the head of TPO, agreed to expand these marine transportation lines to eight by March 2022.
“Freight will be transported on a regular schedule between the Iranian ports of Amirabad, Anzali and Nowshahr, and Russia’s Makhachkala and Astrakhan, and Kazakhstan’s Aktau ports. Two other optional routes from Iran’s Astara and Fereydounkenar ports have been included in the MoU to carry cargo to the above-mentioned ports in Russia and Kazakhstan on demand,” Tafti was quoted as saying by ILNA.
TPO, affiliated with the Ministry of Industries, Mining and Trade, has also agreed to compensate any possible financial loss on the part of Khazar Sea Shipping Lines.
The shipping line has the capacity to transport 200,000 tons of cargo per year while container loading and unloading capacity amounts to 6,000 TEUs per year.
The company has 23 vessels under its name, 15 of which can carry containers.
Infrastructures are ready for commodity transit from Iran's southern ports to the north and through Caspian Sea, the CEO told Trend News Agency in an interview.
"We are interacting with southern ports, commodity owners and company branches in China, Russia, South Korea, Singapore and India for promoting cargo transportation through the International North-South Transport Corridor and Iran's East-West Transit Corridor to Eurasian countries," Tafti explained.
Northern Ports’ Potential Untapped
Poor export infrastructures and lack of adequate equipment are to blame for the low shipping traffic of northern Iranian ports and freight forwarding companies, as well as traders’ reluctance to use their services, Ali Chagharvand, director of Plan Management, Planning and Monitoring Department of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, wrote for Tasnim News Agency.
"Traders and transportation companies do not avail themselves of the numerous advantages of Iran’s northern ports that are in recession. Economic players believe that they are uneconomical. This is while by removing obstacles, freight transportation and trade through northern ports can become a viable alternative to other transit routes and even southern ports,” he said.
“In the last fiscal year [ended March 20, 2021], a meager 5-6 tons of the 30-million-ton capacity of northern ports were used, as demand for their services has declined in recent years.”
According to the Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran, northern ports, such as Anzali, Nowshahr, Fereydounkenar and Astara, do not account for a significant share of the country’s loading and unloading operations. Nowshahr Port has considerable advantages, including its proximity to the capital city and major commercial and industrial centers, easy access to the consumer markets of Central Asia and Eastern Europe, access to the airport, availability of facilities for storage and movement of commercial goods, petroleum products and solid bulk, having exclusive warehouses and special facilities for export and transit, as well as direct connection through pipelines to Chalous oil reservoirs. However, due to many reasons, the port’s shipping traffic is even lower than Amirabad Port’s.
A total of 4 million tons and 4.5 million tons of goods were loaded and unloaded, respectively, at the southern ports of Imam Khomeini and Shahid Rajaee during the month ending Nov. 21.
Among the northern ports, the highest throughput was registered by Amirabad Port with only 260,000 tons of goods while the share of Nowshahr Port was lower than 50,000 tons during the period under review.