Saturday, August 15, 2009

New Rail Freight Container Project Starts Today

Pakistan – Iran – Turkey shipping service commences
Shipping News Feature

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN – Today sees the first shipment of containers on the new international freight service between Islamabad (to be Lahore or Faisalabad when developed) and Istanbul. This is the first completed stage of a project known as ECO (Economic Cooperation Organisation) formulated between Pakistan, Iran and Turkey to simplify and economise trade links between the three countries.

The service stretches over 6500 kilometres, 2500 of which are in Iran with the rest evenly divided between the other two states.It is intended that the service may increase to encompass other countries, including Afghanistan. The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani, speaking at the Margalla Railway Station where the service was inaugurated, said it would lead to increased regional cooperation among the ECO member states.

Initially there will be transhipment necessary in Iran until tracks are standardised between Zahedan and Mirjaveh. Pakistani Ministry sources say they are seeking “soft credit” from international financial sources to fund the new tracks required to complete the service which also needs upgrading between Quetta and Taftan on the run up to the Iranian border. Costs to complete all stages of the proposals, which will enable trains to transit the route at 140 kilometres per hour, may be as high as $500 million.

Pakistan’s trade with the other two countries is estimated at $1 billion annually and some estimates say that the new service could boost this by up to 50%.

Speaking on the issue Mr Mohammad Mirzaie Kahagh, ECO Director for Transport and Communications, said ‘At the request of ECO, China has agreed to lay the rail link up to Herat in Afghanistan and join the Turkmenistan link….. after the completion of these links, Pakistan and Afghanistan would be linked with several countries in Central Asia’.

The freight service will have a transit time of fifteen days and negate the need for some traffic which is currently carried by sea.