LAHORE: The fourth Istanbul-bound freight train, which departed during the third week of March from Pakistan, has finally reached Turkey, a Pakistan Railways (PR) official said on Saturday.

The train — which may take another three to four days to reach its final destination, i.e. Istanbul — was stuck at Taftan after the freight forwarder in Turkey allegedly refused to send wagons for the transhipment of goods at Zahidan towards Istanbul.

Pakistan Railways said that to avert a similar situation in future, all freight forwarders have been instructed to proceed with the operation by signing a formal agreement with freight forwarders in Turkey and Iran before booking goods.

A PR spokesman said in a statement on Saturday that the train carrying goods in containers was currently parked near Lake Van, the largest lake in Turkey and lies in the country’s far east.

May take three to four more days to reach Istanbul, its final destination

“From here, the goods would be transported to the other side of the river through a ferry boat. Since there is only one ferry boat on the Lake Van at the moment, the process to shift the containers/train would take three to four days to complete,” he said.

He said Pakistan Railways was only responsible for the ITI train operations in the areas under its control. According to the agreement, he said, the responsibility for customs clearance, loading, unloading, transhipment and related matters lay with the three companies — Haroon Brothers of Pakistan, Rasan Rail Pars of Iran, and MFA Logistics of Turkey.

Of the four trains that departed from Pakistan from December last year to March this year, three reached the destination on time, but the fourth train was stuck at the Iran-Turkey border mainly due to a payment-related dispute between Haroon Brothers and MFA Logistics.

“To resolve the issue, Pakistan Railways’ officials issued instructions to Haroon Brothers, who then sent their officials to Turkey and the matter was resolved after negotiations with the other party,” the spokesman said.

The issues related to train delays were also discussed at the 12th high-level working group meeting of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO), he said, adding that minutes of the meeting would be released by the ECO secretariat soon.

Meanwhile, Haroon Brothers — a co-national freight forwarder on behalf of Pakistan Railways for the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul train project — said that in the current situation, the train had successfully completed four operations from Pakistan to Turkey, a fifth train was on the move while another one was getting ready.

“The project is the spirit of our national trade and boost in exports of Pakistan,” a company director said in a statement on Saturday.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2022

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