By Leman Mammadova
Azerbaijan and Iran continue to initiate and actively participate in a number of projects to develop the region’s logistics potential.
Azerbaijan Railways will build four terminals in the Iranian city of Astara, Elkhan Asadov, head of the Tariff Regulation Department at Azerbaijan Railways, said at the 4th SOCAR International Caspian and Central Asia Downstream Forum on Trading, Logistics, Refining and Petrochemicals in Baku.
He said that these terminals include oil and grain terminals, a terminal for processing containers and a general-purpose terminal.
Speaking about the activities of Azerbaijan Railways, Asadov noted that much work is being done to modernize trains and repair the railways. In particular, 7 of the 50 new locomotives purchased by Azerbaijan have already been delivered in the country.
In addition, work continues on the simplification and processing of customs procedures.
It is noteworthy that a cargo terminal was built in the Iranian city of Astara with the support of Azerbaijan in the first quarter of this year. The Azerbaijani side took the terminal for a 25-year lease. The capacity of the terminal, built as part of the North-South project, is 2 million tons annually, and it is planned to be increased to 5 million tons in the future.
Iran sees Azerbaijan as a hub to reach larger regional markets. The cooperation on transportation between Iran and Russia through Azerbaijan is crucial in the realization of the International North-South Transport Corridor project.
In 2017, Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia lowered the tariffs by 50 percent for the activation of cargo transportation via the North-South international transport corridor. The increase in cargo transportation through the territory of Azerbaijan between Russia and Iran was 68 percent in the same year.
International North-South Transport Corridor is designed to transport goods from India and the Gulf countries to Russia, Western Europe, the Baltic and Scandinavia. The corridor was established in 2000 within an intergovernmental agreement between Russia, Iran and India. The main purpose of the agreement is to increase the efficiency of transport communications in the organization of freight and passenger transportation.
The project envisages connecting India with the Middle East and the Caucasus, Central Asia and Europe. The purpose of the corridor is to reduce the delivery time to three weeks from India to Russia, as well as to North and Western Europe as the current route takes more than six weeks. If cargo transportation by sea through the Persian Gulf, the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea to Helsinki is carried out within 45-60 days, the delivery time along the North-South corridor will be 20-25 days.
In the framework of the International North-South Transport Corridor, Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia signed an agreement in 2005 on the construction of the 375 km long Astara-Rasht-Qazvin railway. It envisages the construction of a new railway line in Iran, which will connect Astara, Azerbaijan to the Iranian cities of Astara, Rasht and Qazvin as well as the reconstruction of an existing railway in Azerbaijan.
The railway between the Astara regions of Azerbaijan and Iran has been completed. More than 270,000 tons of cargo has been transported through the Astara (Azerbaijan)-Astara (Iran) railway so far.
The Qazvin-Rasht part of the railway was opened on March 6, 2019. Opening of the Qazvin-Rasht railway is a very important step towards the development of not only the North-South Corridor, but also the South-West Transport Corridor. The 164 km long Qazvin-Rasht railway is further connected to Anzali and Astara.
The construction of the Rasht-Astara railway will be completed in two years.
The expected volume of cargo on the corridor passing through the territory of Azerbaijan is 3 million tons at the first, 5-8 million tons at the second and 15 million tons at the third stage.
Cooperation between Azerbaijan and Iran on customs will also contribute to expanding the transit potential of both countries and increasing the competitiveness of international transport. As part of the procedures regulated by the Customs Convention on the International Transport of Goods under Cover of TIR Carnets, the two countries discuss e-TIR Pilot project, which provides for full e-government of transit operations between Azerbaijan and Iran.
Leman Mammadova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @leman_888
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