Oman signs key port deal with Iran
Oman's top port Salalah has signed a basic agreement with two key Iranian southern trade terminals in what is expected to make the Persian Gulf state Iran's new biggest trade partner in the region, replacing the United Arab Emirates, Press TV reported.
The agreement has been signed with Shahid Rajaee port, Iran's biggest cargo port Bandar Abbas located at the Strait of Hormuz, and with Chabahar port which is located on the coast of the Gulf of Oman.
Based on the agreement, an all-water route between the three ports will be jointly promoted, different news agencies have reported.
The port of Salalah will provide advice on infrastructure development and the modernization of the two Iranian ports as well as workforce training.
Officials in Oman say the move would "facilitate growth in shipping, trade and commerce" between the two countries.
"This agreement provides an opportunity for the three ports to complement and significantly enhance each other's value proposition by providing the industries in their hinterlands gateways for wider markets by leveraging on the location of the partner ports," David Gledhill, chief executive officer of the Port of Salalah, has been quoted by the media as saying.
"We also envisage the landlocked countries adjacent to Iran to use the existing multilateral agreements for transport corridors to access new markets."
Salalah is Oman's main trans-shipment port, and handled 2.6 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) of container trade last year as well as 12.5 million tons of bulk cargo, Reuters reported.
Shahid Rajaei port is located 23 kilometers west of Bandar Abbas, the capital city of southern Iranian province of Hormozgan. The port is equipped with 18 gantry cranes and 41 docks, which make it the biggest and most modern container port in Iran.
Chabahar Port is being promoted as an alternate gateway for access to Afghanistan and landlocked Commonwealth of Independent States such as Kazakhstan and Armenia.
In February, Iran and Oman officially launched a separate shipping route between Shahid Rajaee port and the Omani port of Sohar in what officials say would help promote trade not only between Iran and Oman but also across the region.
President Hassan Rouhani told reporters during a visit to Ashkhabad in early March that Iran and Turkmenistan are determined to activate a "south-to-north economic corridor" that starts with Oman, passes through Iran and leads to Uzbekistan through Turkmenistan.
Iran's both moves - with Sohar and Salalah - are expected to make Oman a hub for re-export of Iranian goods in the region, possibly overtaking trade volume between Iran and the UAE.
The UAE - which has currently downgraded relations with Iran in light of tensions between Tehran and Riyadh - is Iran's second largest trade partner after China.