TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - The trucks carrying milk, fruits, vegetables, grains and other food products made the journey from the Turkish city of Mardin to the Iranian port of Bushehr in the Persian Gulf from where they were carried by Ro-Ro ships to the Qatari port of Ruwais.
Qatar is under a blockade by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt which cut trade and transport links with Doha in June in a diplomatic dispute which has exposed serious fissures in the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Turkey and Iran were quick to ease the economic stranglehold on the tiny Arab nation, flying food and other commodities as the diplomatic fallout escalated, and then agreeing on a land route to export goods to Qatar.
The Doha-based Al Sharq newspaper quoted prominent Qatari businessman Ahmed al-Khalaf as saying that the new land trade line between Turkey and Qatar via Iran was reducing the cost of transportation drastically.
Meanwhile, the sea route between Turkey and Qatar initially took 11 days, while a separate land route took 14 days. The new commercial land line via Iran has shortened the duration to less than two days.
The distance between Mardin and Bushehr is about 1,700 km, which can be traveled by trucks in about 22 hours. The route by sea between Bushehr and Qatar’s Hamad Port takes just 8 hours to cover, where the wheeled cargo is carried by roll on/roll off ships.
This means a truck with Turkish goods can reach Doha via Iran in less than two days.
The Iran trade route is “a significant step in tackling the illegal blockade as less transportation time means perishable goods can be transported quickly without damage,” the Qatari daily The Peninsula wrote.
According to board member of Qatar Chamber Mohammed bin Mahdi Al Ahbabi, the new route via Iran has been reducing the cost of transportation by about 80 percent compared to air cargo.
“The cost of air freight is ranging between $1.2 and $1.5 per kilogram, while the cost of road transport (via Iran) is approximately 15 cents,” he said.
Iran's network of road and rail lines
Chairman of Qatar Consume Ali Hassan Al Khalaf, who runs a chain of retail outlets across the country, said the new land route is going to be more sustainable and economically viable in the days to come.
“As more and more importers start using the route, the economies of scale will come into play, which will help further reduce the transportation cost,” he told the Qatari paper.
The businessmen touched on a wide network of road and rail lines which Iran has developed, saying other neighbors of the Islamic Republic such as Russia and Pakistan can also benefit from the new land route to export their goods to Qatar.
Before the diplomatic crisis, Qatar relied almost entirely on Saudi Arabia for imports. Ali Hassan Al Khalaf said unlike the Saudi land route, the Iran trade line will have lesser number of checkpoints, which will ensure a faster movement of trucks.
“This will not only save a lot of time and money, but goods will reach without losing much of their nutritional value.”