The importance of the Chabahar Port project in Iran was underlined by the presence of President Hassan Rouhani at the inauguration ceremony to mark the official opening of the newly built extension at the Gulf of Oman port. It is expected to become a more significant gateway for trade as a result of the upgrades that have been made.
Around US$ 340 million has been invested in the port, increasing its capacity by over 300 per cent. The port now comprises five berths, two of which can handle container traffic, boosting capacity from 2.5 million to 8.5 million tonnes a year.
The port is expected to be a rival for Pakistan’s Gwadar port, which is situated just 80km away, although Iran has been at pains to describe them as ‘sister ports’ rather than competitors. India is a major investor in Chabahar Port, and has pledged around US$ 500 million to fast track expansion and provide an alternative gateway for its own regional trade aspirations.
The expansion of Chabahar port opens up a new strategic route connecting Iran, India and Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan, which has reportedly denied access to Indian cargo at Gwadar. Chabahar, in Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan province, is easily accessible from India’s western coast.