Russia-Iran Establish New Container Shipping Line Across the Caspian Sea

On August 12, Russia and Iran reportedly signed an agreement that establishes a new, permanent container shipping line between the two countries linking them across the Caspian Sea, with the first shipment along this line to be dispatched in September 2020.  The new shipping line is being advertised as alleviating the shortage in refrigerated cargo transport capabilities between the two countries, thus increasing Iran’s capacity for exporting to Russia.

The new Russia-Iran cargo route also falls within the framework of the International North-South Transport Corridor – the Moscow-led 7,200 km multimodal transport corridor that intends, ultimately, to link St. Petersburg and Mumbai, via Azerbaijan and Iran.  Agreement on this shipping line comes following a recent influx in Russian commercial engagements involving the Caspian Sea, including specifically in effort to boost trade ties with Iran.

Earlier in the month, Russian authorities took a major step toward the long-anticipated development of the Port of Lagan – a Russian Caspian seaport, intended to surpass the size and capacity of the current largest transit node in the region, the Port of Baku.  Development of the Lagan Port is intended to offer a pathway for Chinese trade with Europe, via Iran. The port complex is also expected to sway Caspian power dynamics in favor of Russia and Iran.

Additionally, on August 13, Russia’s state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) signed an agreement to build ships to help Turkmenistan modernize its existing Caspian fleet.  The planned ships, the exact purpose for which is unknown, will be constructed in Russia using the company’s St. Petersburg facilities.  The agreement also stipulates cooperation on establishing logistics routes between the two countries.