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Iran Repairing Russian Cargo Ship Damaged on Volga River

By Nargiz Mammadli December 28, 2022

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A Russian vessel entered a shipyard owned by the Iranian Marine Industrial Company’s Caspian Complex on 25 December, 2022, for repairing after being damaged by chunks of ice on the Volga River, for the first time. / Tasnim News Agency

The acting head of the Iranian Marine Industrial Company (IMIC), Meysam Rayatazad has said that a Russian bulk carrier is being repaired in Iran after being damaged by chunks of ice on the Volga River.

“A Russian vessel entered a shipyard owned by the IMIC’s Caspian Complex on 25 December, for repairing for the first time,” Iran’s Tasnim news agency quoted Rayatazad as saying on December 28.

He added that the Islamic Republic intends to take on 20% of all ship repairs in the Caspian Sea.

Iran Marine Industrial Company (SADRA) is affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), which is building Aframax 2 tankers for Venezuela.

Iran announced in early September it was helping to repair several Russian civilian aircraft.

Russia overtook Iran earlier this year as the most sanctioned country in the world following its invasion of Ukraine. As a response to the sanctions, Moscow is expanding its transportation volume through Iran and sees the Caspian Sea as a safe and cheap route for trade with Tehran.

Iran recently bought eight vessels as part of plans to expand trade with Russia through the Volga River starting in the spring of 2023. Russia is finalizing rules that would give ships from Iran the right of passage along inland waterways on the Volga and Don rivers, according to Iran’s Maritime News Agency.

Russia and Iran are building a new transcontinental trade route stretching from the eastern edge of Europe to the Indian Ocean, a 3,000–kilometer (1,860–mile) passage. The two countries are spending billions of dollars to speed up the delivery of cargo along rivers and railways linked by the Caspian Sea, according to Bloomberg.

Ship movement data compiled by Bloomberg already show at least a dozen Iranian vessels, some operated by the US–sanctioned Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines Group, navigating through waters between the country’s Caspian coast and key Volga River ports.

Russia is planning to invest $1 billion to improve navigability across the Azov, into the Don River and across the canal linked to the Volga. Ships sailing the Don and Volga rivers have traditionally traded energy and agricultural commodities, as Iran is the third-largest importer of Russian grain. The two countries have announced a raft of new business deals that cover goods including turbines, polymers, medical supplies and automotive parts. Russia also reportedly supplies nuclear fuel and components for Iran’s reactor in Bushehr.

Moscow is striving to make the most of the combined transportation routes through Central Asia, the Caspian Sea, and the Caucasus and to develop trade with other economic partners, such as China, Iran, Türkiye and India, in hopes of reducing the negative consequences of Western sanctions on the Russian economy following Russia’s all-out assault on Ukraine.

In early May, Iran’s northern port of Noshahr welcomed the first Russian roll-on/roll-off (Ro-Ro) cargo vessel in 21 years.

On June 11, the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) began operation with the first shipment from Russia to India. The first shipment transiting the Russia-Iran-India multimodal route passed through Astrakhan Port (Russia), Iran’s ports of Bandar Abbas and Chabahar and the Indian port of Nhava Sheva Port. In addition, Iran and Russia reached an initial agreement for launching a joint shipbuilding venture in the Caspian Sea on June 17.