By Leman Mammadova
The favorable geographical location of Azerbaijan ensures its active participation in the realization of global transport projects.
Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway will strengthen cooperation in transport sphere between Azerbaijan and Lithuania, Lithuanian Transport and Communications Ministry told Trend.
The Ministry said that Lithuania is currently implementing the Viking project.
"It is a joint project of Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine railways, connecting Baltic and Black sea ports. Additional cargo flows can be attracted by adding Azerbaijan and Georgia to this train route. Therefore, in May 2016, Azerbaijan has signed a protocol on Azerbaijan Railways CJSC's joining the Viking train project. Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway line will be very useful to strengthen cooperation between two countries in transport field," the message said.
In addition, the ministry said that exchange of experience with the Baku International Sea Trade Port could be effective for both parties.
The Viking project was launched in 2003 with the initiative of Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine. The total length of the Illichiovsk (Ukraine)-Minsk (Belarus)-Draugyste (Lithuania) route is 1,766 kilometers. The route crosses Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania and links the network of sea container and contrailer lines of the Baltic and the Black seas, the Mediterranean and the Caspian seas. The regular runs were launched on February 6, 2003.
According to preliminary calculations, cargo transportation along this corridor in India-North Europe direction will take 20 days, to China - 16-18 days. The delivery time of the alternate routes makes about 35-40 days.
Viking is one of the most successful container train projects of the Lithuania Railways company. Its main benefits are consistency (the train currently runs from Klaipėda port five times a week), speed, work experience (the experience enables to provide the high quality services quickly and reliably), competitive prices (special and uniform transit rates in all participating countries), as well as fast EU-CIS border crossing procedures.
In 2017, the volume of cargo transportation along Viking route amounted to 46,451 TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit). The main freight consists of vehicles and its parts, textile products, metal products, products of the chemical industry.
The Viking project covers the transportation of cargo from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. The main purpose of the transport corridor is to connect the Scandinavian countries to the Black Sea via Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine, and to ensure access to Azerbaijan, Iran, Central Asia, the Far East region and India. The trade turnover between Northern Europe (Baltic, Scandinavian and others) with Iran, Pakistan, India and Arab countries will be advantageous for Azerbaijan, as it will be a transit country.
In September 2015, the Ukrainian Railways JSC announced the possibility of cargo transportation via Viking train from China to Europe. The corresponding protocol was signed during the meeting of heads of railways of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine on the formation of competitive tariff conditions for cargo transportation in Asia-Europe-Asia direction on September 11, 2015 in Odessa.
In February 2016, Ukraine and Lithuania signed a memorandum on the accession of the Viking container train to the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route from Europe to China through Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, so-called New Silk Road route.
Due to the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Lithuania will be able to carry more cargo from Kazakhstan and China, and also to transport containers from Turkey to Ukrainian ports. The project promises a number of economic prospects to Azerbaijan.
The BTK railway has been constructed on the basis a Georgian-Azerbaijani-Turkish intergovernmental agreement. The project implementation began in 2007 and the construction phase was launched in 2008. The line is intended to transport one million passengers and 6.5 million tons of freight at the first stage. This capacity will then reach 3 million passengers and 17 million tons of cargo.
The opening ceremony of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway was held on October 30, 2017 at the Baku International Sea Trade Port. The total length of the BTK railway is 846 km, with 504 km running thtough the territory of Azerbaijan, 263 km - Georgia and 79 km - Turkey.
Providing the shortest rail link between Europe and Asia, BTK plays an important role in the implementation of China's "One Belt, One Road" strategy and International North-South Transport Corridor.
At present, the BTK provides transportation from Kazakhstan to Mersin port. Some cargoes are delivered from Russia to Turkey and Europe.
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