Iranian and Russian officials in a meeting in the Northern Mazandaran province discussed the current status of trade transactions between the two countries via the Caspian Sea to explore new avenues for bolstering bilateral trade ties and exchanges through the Sea. During the meeting on Saturday, Managing-Director of Iran's Caspian Sea Shipping Line Ali Akbar Qonji and Russia's Astrakhan Governor-General Alexander Zhiklin underlined the need for the removal of the current problems which hinder rise in the volume of trade transactions between Iran and Russia. Qonchi pointed to the problems Iran's transport fleet face for transporting the country's goods to Russia, and said, "Due to the cleanup problems of Volga canal, we want a rise in the number of permits issued for Iranian ships berthing in Astrakhan port." Zhiklin arrived in Northern Iran at the head of a large economic delegation, comprising 60 state officials and private sector traders, on Monday evening. Astrakhan is a major city in Southwestern Russia and the administrative center of Astrakhan Oblast. The city lies on the left bank of the Volga River, close to where it discharges into the Caspian Sea at an altitude of 23 meters below sea level. In December 2010, Iran's Northern province of Mazandaran and Astrakhan signed a protocol to boost mutual cooperation. The protocol paved the way for bolstering mutual cooperation in the fields of industry, trade, agriculture, health and medicine, education and sciences, and tourism. As regards trade cooperation, the two sides agreed to carry out joint efforts to establish Iran's Trade House in Astrakhan. On educational cooperation, the two sides’ state-run universities were tasked with exchange of experiences in nanotechnology fields. The protocol came during a trip to Iran's Northern provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran by a large delegation from Astrakhan.