Improving intermodal trade

From the June 2020 issue.

The first intermodal transport using TIR, a globally applicable international customs transit and guarantee system, from India via Chabahar Port in Iran was completed earlier this year, giving rise to more efficient cross-border freight movements.

TIR enables goods to be shipped from a country of origin, through transit countries, to a country of destination in sealed load compartments that are controlled by customs via a multilateral and mutually recognised system. It is, according to the International Road Transport Union (IRU), the easiest, safest and most reliable way to move goods across multiple international borders which has potential to save transport operators and customs authorities time and money.

This intermodal transport example from India via Chabahar Port in Iran involved the cartage of factory line components. The operation took seven days in total, IRU reported, with five by sea and two by road from Chabahar Port in Iran to the final destination in Afghanistan. In comparison, the traditional route from Bandar Abbas Port in Iran is three to four days longer. This was also the first TIR operation started from India and by an Indian TIR carnet holder.

Risk management procedures were reportedly completed ahead of the journey due to TIR and its IT tools. This negated the need to open containers for inspection at any of the borders crossed, including Chabahar Port.

IRU has estimated a 20 per cent boost to sea and land transport time in this instance with the implementation of TIR.
“This first intermodal TIR transport from India along the Chabahar corridor is an exciting development in the region and goes to demonstrate the wider potential of intermodal TIR for shippers and transport operators around the world,” said IRU Secretary General, Umberto de Pretto.

In addition to linking Iran to Afghanistan, Central Asia, Russia and eventually Europe, Chabahar also is the only Iranian port with direct access to the Indian Ocean.

This first TIR transport operation is based on the Chabahar transit agreement signed between India and Iran, and represents the initial step towards the full activation of the India-Iran-Afghanistan route. 

“The opening of new corridors is especially important given the current circumstances resulting from the Coronavirus (Covid-19) epidemic,” said de Pretto. “The facilitation of new, faster and more secure routes ensures that the goods keep getting to the people who need them.”

Meanwhile, the most immediate concern for the road transport industry amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the IRU, is to maintain supply chains, especially for food and medical items – in the safest way possible for transport workers and citizens while respecting relevant government guidelines.

IRU and its member network continue to monitor the situation in regions and across borders, advising transport companies on dealing with the pandemic and its impacts. IRU has implemented crisis and continuity plans, including preventive measures to protect staff.
“While the full scale of Covid-19 is not yet known, we can only assume that the outbreak will continue seriously impacting the global economy, trade and tourism in the coming weeks and months, and thus the road transport sector and the supply chains and mobility networks it supports,” IRU said in a statement. “Moving people and goods needs roads. The production and distribution of almost every good on the planet is dependent, at some point, on services provided by road transport operators.”

IRU has estimated, based on a fall in intercontinental container shipments, a decline in global transport activity of up to 20 per cent in 2020.

Nearly six per cent of people employed worldwide work in road transport, according to IRU, largely in small and medium sized firms that, due to their size, cannot easily cope with external shocks such as the economic impacts of Covid-19.

“The economic burden is high, and growing, on both workers and the owners of firms,” IRU said. “They are doing their best to stay afloat, however functioning supply chains and the mobility of essential workers depend on them remaining in business.”
IRU is calling on government and authorities, including banks and financial institutions, to take various temporary actions to help ease the burden of the crisis on operators.

IRU’s safety recommendations include: operating companies should implement higher driver health and safety standards for loading and unloading goods (particularly in quarantine areas) and concerning the carriage of documents to demonstrate compliance with health rules; operating companies must ensure traceability in recording and maintaining driver and worker movements; governments and authorities should clearly communicate enforcement procedures for vehicles, drivers and cargo or passengers, especially for quarantine areas; and governments and authorities should closely coordinate and publish measures to mitigate the impact of the restrictions they adopt on supply chains and related movements of goods and people.

IRU also recommends that governments should: ease driving and resting time rules to ensure efficient logistics for critical goods (food and medical supplies) and enable drivers to leave affected regions or quarantine zones as quickly as possible to return home; lift delivery restrictions to ensure delivery can take place at safer times, in the night for example; ease loan and mortgage repayment terms from financial institutions, especially for large vehicle loans, and VAT and tax payment deadlines; remove or reduce tolls and road user charges for trucks and coaches; set up support programs for temporarily unemployed road transport workers; avoid unilateral measures by the relevant authorities so that cross-border transport of goods is facilitated (especially essential items such as food and medical supplies); and provide emergency financial aid programs for impacted businesses to prevent bankruptcies.

“Keeping road transport supply chains and mobility networks open is crucial to helping us all cope with the Covid-19 pandemic in the comings weeks and beyond,” said IRU Secretary General, Umberto de Pretto. “To do this, we need to protect the workers and companies who are the backbone of road transport, and to keep transport links open wherever and as long as possible in affected areas so that essential goods and people can get to where they need to be.”

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