By Kamila Aliyeva
A five-sided meeting of the heads of the railway agencies of Azerbaijan, Iran, Georgia, Poland and Ukraine kicked off in Baku on June 19.
Chairman of the Azerbaijan Railways Javid Gurbanov, Director General of the Iranian Railways Said Mohammadzadeh, Chairman of the Georgian Railways Mamuka Bakhtadze, Chairman of the Ukrainian Railways JSC Balchun Wojciech and Head of the State Railway of Poland Krzysztof Maminski took part in the event.
Gurbanov, addressing the meeting, gave detailed information about the work done for increasing the transit potential of the country and international transport corridor, implementation of the reforms and the challenges ahead.
The railway agencies of Azerbaijan, Iran, Georgia, Ukraine and Poland, working on the project of the South-West Corridor, aim at creating a new attractive logistics product, he said.
This corridor will include such countries and regions as India, Pakistan, Southeast Asia and the Persian Gulf, according to Gurbanov.
"There are huge human and economic resources on this territory, the annual flow of goods from India to Europe amounts to 72 million tons of cargo, including 25 million tons from Europe. We are confident that the South-West route will work and has a great future," he said.
He noted that the main points on the corridor route are Indian Mumbai, Bender Abbas in Iran, Astara (Azerbaijan), Poti and Batumi in Georgia and Ukrainian Chernomorsk. as well as Izov and Slavkov in Poland.
"The total length of the corridor is 7,654 km. Our task is to make it attractive. The air transportation is faster, but much more expensive and offer fewer volumes. The sea transportation now prevails, as it is cheaper than rail, but it takes about 40 days to deliver the cargo. By rail, the delivery of goods will take 15 days," Gurbanov said.
He added that the parties need to work together to achieve their goals.
"The main goal is to create a new logistics product, to find out opportunities, to bring together positions, to attract large cargo traffic to the corridor and make it demandable. We have the opportunities, experience and will of the first persons, as well as our own desire. We need to work together," he said.
Participants of the South-West Transport Corridor plan to transport up to 200,000 tons of cargo by the end of the current year, according to Gurbanov.
Chairman of the Georgian Railway LLC Mamuka Bakhtadze, in turn, said that Georgia is applying the lowest tariffs for cargo transportation via the South-West Corridor.
He said the tariff applied by the Georgian Railway LLC for the South-West route is $123 per container. “This is the lowest tariff applied by the Georgian Railway LLC. Even domestic transportation is more expensive,” Bakhtadze said adding that “this underlines the priority Georgia gives to this corridor.”
He noted that in a week, consultations between the railway companies of Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Iran will take place in Tbilisi, and invited Ukraine and Poland to participate in the consultations.
Bakhtadze further stressed that the integration of India is critically important for the further development of the corridor.
Following the meeting, Azerbaijan, Iran, Georgia, Ukraine and Poland have signed a final protocol on the South-West Transport Corridor project. The document envisages expanding cooperation opportunities on the South West Route in order to optimize cargo transportation and increase transit capacity.
Under the document, the coordination work between the five countries’ railway agencies on the South-West corridor was assigned to Azerbaijan Railways CJSC.
The Coordination Committee, under which a working group will be created, will deal with the issues of strategic importance and prospects of the corridor development. The working group will be based in Tehran.
The protocol reads that a Coordination Committee meeting on the South-West corridor will be held in Odessa in September.
Along with the Trans-Caspian and North-South corridors, the South-West corridor is of great importance for Azerbaijan. The South-West corridor is supposed to run from India to Europe through the Persian Gulf, Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and the Black Sea. At an initial stage, it is planned to transport 10 million tons of cargo via this route with the possibility of increasing the transportation volume by several times in the future.
An agreement on the South-West corridor was signed in 2016 by Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Ukraine in Baku. The corridor will make it possible to slash the time of cargo transportation from India to Europe by two or three times.
Kamila Aliyeva is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Kami_Aliyeva
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