Russia has started using an alternate route to ship goods to India, through Caspian Sea and Iran, bypassing the Mediterranean Sea – Suez Canal route. Russia dispatched a test cargo to India from St. Petersburg via Iran o Saturday, operationalising the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC). According to Russia Briefing, Iran’s state-owned shipping firm has announced the first transit of Russian products to India via the INSTC.
Economic Times, quoting Dariush Jamali, director of a joint-owned Iranian-Russian terminal in Astrakhan, reported that goods originating in St. Petersburg are on their way to Russian city Astrakhan, which is the Caspian port city located on the delta of Volga river. In Astrakhan, the cargo will be reloaded at the Solyanka Port in the city. They will then go across the Caspian Sea to Iran’s Anzali Port, where they will be carried by road through Iran to the port city of Bandar Abbas in southern Iran. The goods will again be loaded onto ships at the Iranian port, and from there the goods will be delivered to India’s largest container port in Navi Mumbai.
Two 40-foot (12.192-meter) containers of wood laminate sheets totalling 41 tonnes were included in the test shipment. The duration of the journey is less than 25 days, as opposed to the approximately 40 days it now takes to move cargo from Russia to India through the Baltic Sea – North Sea – Mediterranean Sea – Suez Canal – Red Sea -Arabian Sea route. Aside from shortening the time it takes for transport between India and Russia, INSTC is seen as a feasible alternative for Indo-Russian trade in the face of present international issues. The journey time will shorten even more after a rail route Iran is constructing is completed.
The International North-South Transport Corridor
The International North-South Transport Corridor is a multi-modal connectivity project that will build a 7,200-km-long multi-mode network of ship, rail, and road routes to move freight between India, Russia, Iran, Europe, and Central Asia. The INSTC would provide access to landlocked Central Asian states. INSTC, which was conceived long before China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), would not only assist reduce the cost and time it takes to transport commodities from India to Russia and Europe via Iran but will also serve as an alternative connectivity strategy for countries in the Eurasian zone.
INSTC is not a new concept; numerous European, Indian, and other foreign traders have employed it to reach Central Asian markets. The present INSTC project, on the other hand, was launched in September 2000 in St. Petersburg by Russia, India, and Iran. The agreement was signed on 16th May 2002. Azerbaijan joined this agreement in 2005 and later several other countries ratified it, including Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Armenia, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Oman, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey and Ukraine. The route largely comprises transporting goods via sea, train, and road from India, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Russia.