A historic opportunity
Iran remains a complex field of business for the international logistics industry, even after the partial lifting of the sanctions. Transinvest CEO Yousef Sherkati and M & M CEO Lothar Thoma spoke to Christian Doepgen about the region’s great potential.
What is your assessment of the current situation in Iran, gentlemen?
The domestic economic situation is the biggest problem at the moment. The government’s understandable desire to stabilise the national currency has put the brakes on economic development a bit of late. We’re optimistic that the central bank will provide more foreign exchange and that the door for economic activities will continue to be opened.
Last year your company won the tender to run the Aprin rail hub. How is that project progressing?
We’re very pleased with the opportunity to develop the 55 ha compound into a railway terminal. We’ve submitted our plans to the Railways of the Islamic Republic of Iran (RAI) and it has approved them. The infrastructural work to establish power and water supplies, and the like, has begun.
So collaboration with RAI is also proceeding well under its new head?
Yes, cooperation with Saeed Mohammadzadeh, the new RAI chairman of the board and president, as well as with the RAI officials dealing with us, is good. Mohammadzadeh recently toured the site with us – we were able to convince him that the facility deserves a grand solution, one that includes additional access roads, amongst other things.
What opportunities have you ascertained?
The realisation of a plan that has been on the drawing board in Teheran for no less than 15 years – namely an easing of the burden of road traffic in and around the southern railway station. At the moment around 400 road hauliers handle these operations, making use of a patchwork of warehouses for distribution, which is not efficient.
What alternative are you thinking of?
A total area of approximately 400 ha will be developed at Aprin, with ‘our’ 55 ha only representing a part thereof. Our idea is to devise a comprehensive overall solution, a grand design for the centre. If we were to concentrate exclusively on railfreight operations in this new facility, then that would mean gifting away its great multimodal potential.
What are you planning in detail?
We’re talking here about multifaceted utilisation. We want to create handling facilities for every mode of transport, including groupage and express options, and also establish open and covered storage solutions for various types of customers. There’s a historic opportunity to realise a multimodal solution with a long-term perspective in Aprin.
So shippers will be given space too?
Of course. We’re already conducting negotiations, also with interested parties from abroad. We’re talking about the storage and distribution of spare parts for cars. We naturally also bundle our services there.
Haven’t plans moved too far for that now?
At this stage that is one of the advantages in Iran; the utilisation plan is flexible. We coordinate with the authorities and are rather optimistic that the overall concept will be realised.
Iran attracts great interest in the Far East too. What do you think of the plans of the Chinese, amongst others?
Several aspects of China’s plans for a new Silk Road are very interesting. For us the key is to have the right staff in western China, who will find the right partners for ongoing projects, estimated to be worth USD 100 billion. Goods flows to Europe will see InterRail and Militzer & Münch complete the supply chain at each end.
What of the broader environment?
The new Silk Road has an impact on every littoral state; they, in turn, are also investing domestically. We have ascertained great potential in Kazakhstan, for example.