History has been made after Russia successfully sent the first freight train to Saudi Arabia via Iran – a significant milestone in developing the 'International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC)'.
The train, loaded with 36 containers, departed from Russia's Chelyabinsk freight station on June 21st and continued through Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran before reaching its final destination in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s largest port city, on Sunday, August 27th.
The route is expected to reduce travel time between the two regions by several days. It is a less expensive alternative for the Maritime route via the Suez Canal cargo shipments. It will provide Russian exporters greater access to markets in the Middle East and Central Asia with a 50% reduction in customs tariffs.
The INSTC is a 4,473-mile multi-mode logistics network that connects rail, maritime and road services for moving freight between Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, India, and Central Asia. In 2022, the INSTC carried 14.5 million tons, and the projection for 2023 will see this increase to 17.6 million tons, according to the Russian Transport Ministry.
It has been frequently suggested that the INSTC could become a viable alternative to The Suez Canal in Egypt, the 119-mile-long waterway connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea and carrying an average of 12% of the world's trade daily.
The INSTC is also a sign of improved relations between Russia and the Middle East. The train has been seen as a symbol of cooperation between the two regions and is expected to open up new opportunities for trade and investment.