Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan plan to boost trade via major transport project

North-South Transport Corridor offers many opportunities for Indo-Russian trade. Source: ITAR-TASS

North-South Transport Corridor offers many opportunities for Indo-Russian trade. Source: ITAR-TASS

The International North–South Transport Corridor (NSTC) is expected to become the key topic on the agenda of a summit involving Russian President Vladimir Putin, his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani and Azerbaijan's leader Ilham Aliyev. The major infrastructure project will rival the Suez Canal.

The NSTC that Putin referred to as a "flagship project" is a land- and sea-based 7,200 km long network comprising rail, road and water routes that is aimed at reducing costs and travel time for freight transport in a bid to boost trade between Russia, Iran, Central Asia and India. It will link South Asia to Western and Northern Europe.

"We believe that this cooperation serves the interests of the peoples of Iran, Azerbaijan, and Russia and, of course, the interests of the entire region," PressTV quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying.

The project, research shows, will provide a cost-effective alternative to the maritime route across the Suez Canal.

The route was tested in 2014, with dry runs conducted between Mumbai and Baku, as well as Mumbai and Astrakhan indicating that transport costs could be reduced by $2,500 per 15 tons of cargo, PressTV reported.

Travel time cuts are even more impressive. For instance, India and Russia use maritime routes for freight transport at the moment, with goods reaching their destination in approximately 40 days. The NSTC will allow freight from Mumbai to reach Saint Petersburg in 14 days, the media outlet added, citing JSC Russian Railways.

A study, conducted by the Federation of Freight Forwarders' Associations in India showed that the NSTC would be 30 percent cheaper and 40 percent shorter than the existing routes, the Diplomat reported in May 2015.

The project was unveiled in 2000 when Russia, Iran and India signed an agreement to build the route. Other states involved in the project include Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Oman, Tajikistan, Turkey and Ukraine.

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