KABUL - The Afghanistan Ministry of Commerce and Industries (MoCI) on Monday said Chabahar port, in south eastern Iran , could become Afghanistan’s primary sea port as it is only 550km from Afghanistan – opposed to Pakistan’s Karachi port which is over 800km from the country’s closest border, TOLO News has reported.
In addition to this, Chabahar offers special privileges as it is a free trade zone for Afghan traders.
Despite reports indicating that advanced services have not yet been established at Chabahar for loading and off-loading cargo from ships, India nonetheless shipped 15,000 tons of wheat in aid to Afghanistan on Monday to Chabahar.
According to the ministry, the port will play a key role in decreasing transit costs and improving trade volumes between Afghanistan and other countries - especially with Iran , India and Turkey.
“Unloading and loading wheat in Chabahar and transferring it to Afghanistan indicates that capacities have increased in Chabahar and it encourages our traders to start doing business through Chabahar, which is the closest port to us,” said MoCI spokesman Musafir Quqandi.
According to MoCI officials, goods currently being shipped in through Karachi port will in the near future be redirected through Chabahar.
“Chabahar is a better route and in future, it will take the place of Karachi port. But work still needs to be done there. An international airport is needed, infrastructure should be established and we need to build a railway line from there to Afghanistan,” ACCI spokesman Seyam Pesarlay said.
Reaching Karachi port, trucks travel either through Nimroz province - Zaranj city – which is an 872 km journey and takes at least 10 hours by road.
From Nangarhar’s Torkham gate, the distance is over 1,416km and takes trucks 28 hours at least to reach the port.
According to ACCI, the distance is not the only problem, but truck drivers face numerous challenges while on route to Karachi including regular border closures and the need to often pay bribes along the way.
But India has indicated it is prepared to help develop Chabahar especially as it hopes to open up trade routes to Afghanistan and other Central Asian markets.
Currently, Pakistan has the monopoly in terms of trade routes to this region.
“If we can join Afghanistan’s ring road which is from Ghor up to Maimana, it is a good option for Chabahar that will connect the eastern, south-eastern and also the northern and central regions – it will be cheaper and closer,” said university lecturer Nazir Ahmad Najaie.
Concerns however have been raised over the current tensions between Iran and some Western countries and that some of these countries will not ship their goods through Chabahar.