LAHORE: Expressing serious concerns over the inordinate delay in reaching its destination, the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) has held Pakistan Railways responsible for the failure of the operations of the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul (ITI) freight train.

The fourth ITI train, which started its journey in the first week of March, has yet to reach Istanbul despite the passing of nearly two and half months reportedly due to a dispute between Turkish and Pakistani freight forwarders.

In letters, written separately to the federal minister for Railways and the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO), the apex chamber said the ITI freight train operation resumed after a gap of around 12 years and the Pakistani exporters and industries were happy over this decision of restoring this rail route with the shortest transit time of 15 days.

“Unfortunately, corrupt practices, mishandling of freight forwarders, negligence by Pakistan Railway officials and other administrative issues has endangered continuity and fate of ITI freight train,” the FPCCI letters read.

Train that set off in March yet to reach Istanbul

The federation said the Pakistan Railways Freight Transportation Company (PRFTC) didn’t develop any complaint handling management system and monitoring of freight forwarders and resultantly the fourth train started from Azakheil in the first week of March and is still stuck up in Iran, after two and half months and goods have not reached Turkey till now.

“One freight forwarder nominated by the PR has allegedly defaulted 34,000 euros to Turkish forwarder. Due to nonpayment, the fourth ITI freight train was stopped at the Turkey-Iran border.

It may be mentioned that Pakistani exporters have paid all freight charges to forwarders in advance before loading cargo on the ITI train that has reportedly entered the territory of Turkey after being stuck at the Iran-Turkey border station for many days.

The FPCCI expressed wonder that the freight forwarders nominated/appointed by the PRFTC have not submitted any performance guarantee or security deposits. Even some of them are not registered with the Freight Forwarders Association of Pakistan and have no background in the international logistics business.

“We request you to intervene personally and investigate the corrupt practices involved in ITI freight train operation,” the FPCCI sought.

It also urged the ECO Secretariat to put in place a complaint handling and freight forwarders monitoring system in place as agreed during the 12th meeting of the high-level working group.

The 4th ITI train started its journey from Pakistan during the first week of March. By the end of that month, it reached Taftan, where it got stuck for a few days due to the dispute between the Pakistani and Turkish freight forwarders and some customs-related issues.

Later, it arrived in Zahedan, where the goods were transshipped to wagons compatible with Europe’s standard gauge rail system in six containers. When the train reached Zahedan, the Turkish freight forwarder refused to send wagons for transshipment. However, after being assured of the payment by the Pakistani freight forwarder, the wagons were sent to Zahedan.

But the Pakistani freight forwarder again avoided clearing dues, which forced his counterpart in Turkey to get the train stopped at Razi station situated at the Iran-Turkey border. However, after being paid some partial payment to the Turkish forwarder, the train was allowed to enter Turkey. However, it is yet to reach Istanbul.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2022

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