Today, the Suez Canal is blocked by a container ship, whose cargo of stacked containers involuntarily acted as a sailing ship and was smashed onto shore by a gust of wind. Damage to international trade: $400 million/hour. Yesterday, 2 x 200 ships were waiting on both sides of the canal for free passage. In the future, ships like the Ever Given will have to be escorted by tug boats, to avoid repetition of the financial disaster.
Not to waste a good crisis, Russia, Iran and India pointed at the possibility of an alternative trade route, they have in mind to run over their (Russian & Iranian) territory: the International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC), a combined sea lane, rail and road passage, from the Indian Ocean, Strait of Hormuz, over land through Iran and Azerbaijan into Russia. The Northern Sea lane, north of Siberia, could become viable as well.
Additionally, the Iranians have very ambitions plans to connect the Indian Ocean and Caspian Sea via a canal through Iran and have two alternative routes in mind, named Iranrud (Iranian River), see map below:
Officials from India, Iran, and Russia are going to meet next month to negotiate a large joint project aimed at launching a new cargo transport corridor that could become a cheaper and shorter alternative to the Suez Canal.
The new shipment passage, North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), is set to connect the Indian Ocean with the Persian Gulf through Iran to Russia and Europe, according to Iranian state-owned news outlet Press TV. The 7,200-kilometers long corridor will combine sea and rail routes.
“The INSTC is the shortest multimodal transportation route linking the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf via Iran to Russia and North Europe,” India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry said in a statement, adding that trilateral talks between the parties are scheduled on November 23.
The route will make it possible to deliver cargoes from India to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. Then, the goods will be transported by land to Bandar Anzali, Iran’s port on the Caspian Sea. After that, goods will be shipped to the Russian southern port of Astrakhan, from where they will move to Europe by rail.
Website comment: this could be an interesting development for Europe, in the light of the following possible scenario for the future:
- the US empire goes down, causing the US to give up on its vassals in the Middle East, like KSA, Gulf States, Egypt and Jordan
- the Middle East will be divided into two spheres of influence: Turkey (Sunni) and Iran (Shia)
- Turkish sphere of influence: Egypt, Jordan, parts of Libya, western Iraq (providing a corridor from Turkey into KSA), parts of Syria, most of KSA
- Iranian sphere of influence: both sides of the Gulf, large parts of Iraq, part of Syria, Yemen
If this scenario materializes and Sunni states, under the leadership of Turkey, set up a new version of the Ottoman Empire, than passing the Suez Canal would become less secure. In that case the INSTC could become an interesting alternative and to be preferred over sailing around Southern Africa. Nevertheless, the real transport backbone Chine-Greater Europe will no doubt be the New Silk Road rail initiative, not in the least because this options doesn’t require several expensive transshipment.
[rt.com] – Russia, India & Iran want to create alternative trade route to Suez Canal
[wikipedia.org] – International North–South Transport Corridor
[wikipedia.org] – Iranrud
[diplomatist.com] – The Scope for INSTC in the Evolving India-Baltic Relations