An evolving trade trend in the Caspian Sea is making waves in the world of international trade. Despite facing significant sanctions,Iran and Russia are investing billions of dollars in building a trade route that is already seeing dozens of vessels, some subject to sanctions, plying the route.
An article published in Bloomberg notes, “The two countries are spending billions of dollars to speed up delivery of cargos along rivers and railways linked by the Caspian Sea. Ship–tracking data compiled by Bloomberg show dozens of Russian and Iranian vessels—including some that are subject to sanctions—already plying the route.
It’s an example of how sanctions are rapidly reshaping trade networks in a world economy that looks set to fragment into rival blocs. Under tremendous pressure from sanctions, Russia and Iran are turning toward each other—and they’re both looking eastward, too.”
Our Maritime AI™ platform has also identified an increase in cargo ships engaging in dark activities in the Caspian Sea, with Iran as their next port, and then Russia.
Another interesting insight that supports this theory becomes clear when we look at the Volga and Don passages that connect Iran and Russia through the Caspian Sea – 35 cargo vessels passed through these passages in 2021 (yearly average), but this grew to 50 in 2022 – a 42% increase.
While these visits seem to follow seasonal patterns, the overall number of visits in the relevant season has greatly increased:
As sanctions and regulatory bodies continue to reshape trade networks, the Caspian Sea is poised to play a pivotal role in the changing landscape of international trade. With a global recession looming and the West’s economic vice slowly tightening on Russia, expect an increase in deceptive shipping practices, particularly a combination of dark activities, GNSS manipulation, and ship-to-ship meetings. New hubs will continue to pop up for concealing illicit activities as old ones draw increased scrutiny, and Iran and Russia will strengthen their trade routes.
At Windward, we’ll continue sharing insights from our Maritime AI™ platform to help organizations throughout the maritime ecosystem stay ahead of evolving maritime risk.
Windward’s full report on the one-year anniversary of the Russian war’s effect on the maritime industry goes far beyond the issue of this emerging partnership, analyzing dry cargo and grain smuggling, taking a deep dive into Russia-related DSPs, and much more!