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Weak pound boosts Middle East transport

A return to the legendary heyday of transport beyond Europe’s borders could be on the cards for drivers thanks to the weak pound, as hauliers report a boom in work in far-flung corners of the globe.

The high cost of aviation fuel and a slow-down in the shipping sector has led to companies such as Middle Eastern transport specialist Astran Cargo Services to claim it is exploiting buoyant markets in countries such as Iran and Qatar.

Astran director Kevin Letham says its experience in the Middle East is in contrast to domestic and European operators, who are currently feeling the pinch.

He says it is using European-based customers who pay in euros for road transport to anywhere from Turkey to Turkmenistan: “Everyone is moaning about Europe, with the rates getting lower and lower,” he says, “but 2009 has been a very good year for us.

“We are loading in Italy and Spain and then on to the Middle East.”

He adds: “The Iranian market is very buoyant, although it’s a nightmare for Customs, regulations and sanctions.”

Philip Stephenson, joint managing director at Davies Turner, also reports a swing in favour of UK companies willing to travel great distances. He reveals: “With the weakness of the pound, we have started using more British drivers again to places such as Morocco, purely for economic reasons.”

Peter Cullum, head of international affairs at the Road Haulage Association, agrees that some international members had a busy 12 months last year, but cautions: “There are others who have not. It really depends how they manage their costs. If they can get bills paid in sterling, great. If it’s in euros, that’s not so good.”

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