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Iran and Pakistan advance talks to establish new direct shipping line

Talks are advancing between Pakistan and Iran as Islamabad is eager to launch a direct shipping line with Iranian ports to remove obstacles in conducting its export-import trade.

Iranian officials said they are ready to provide vessels for this line if Pakistan pays the costs for the vessels required.

Pakistan is also interested in cooperating with Iran for resolving maritime issues and joint cooperation for the operation of Gwadar and Chabahar ports.

In an online meeting with the head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO) Ali-Akbar Safaei, Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan Mohammad Ali Hosseini on 12 February said launching the shipping lines between the two countries face some obstacles and problems which need to be resolved first to materialise the move.

“The Iranian side is ready to allocate vessels for this line provided that the Pakistani side agrees to pay the costs for these vessels,” said Hosseini.

Referring to the interest of the Pakistani Minister of Maritime Affairs in cooperating with Iran he noted that Pakistan is also considering launching shipping lines with Oman and UAE.

The PMO head Safaei at the meeting emphasised the need to strengthen maritime transport and logistics cooperation with countries in the region and especially neighbours.

“To this end, we have had a series of meetings with Iranian ambassadors in neighbouring countries and ambassadors of these countries in Iran to discuss cooperation in various port and maritime sectors,” he added.

He also said that PMO is ready to provide the necessary assistance in the field of maritime transport for promoting the exports of energy carriers to Pakistan, which can be a good market for Iran for energy export.

Iran is also interested in exporting oil and petrochemical products to Pakistan, however, the realisation of this goal depends on the Pakistani sides’ determination, according to Safaei.

The two countries have so far signed three agreements in the field of maritime cooperation, including maritime search and rescue, maritime cruise certificates, and also seafaring certificates for near the coast voyages.

Iran and Pakistan’s bilateral trade stood at US$1.5 billion before the pandemic hit the globe. Late last year the two sides agree to revive talks to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) and enhance the annual trade to US$5 billion by 2023.

Sharar Nayel
Asia Correspondent

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