The main goal of the work of the Permanent Secretariat (PS) of the Intergovernmental Commission (IGC) TRACECA is creating an international transport corridor that meets the requirements of the 21st century, namely, competitive in both the cost of transportation and the time of delivery of goods, Secretary General of the Permanent Secretariat of the IGC TRACECA Asset Assavbayev told Trend.
Assavbayev said that the TRACECA is currently working in several directions.
"Presently, we are working towards digitalization, transferring processes and documentation into electronic format, creating an online platform for all participants in the process of transporting goods,'' he said.
"In addition, we’re also working in several areas, such as: development of a new agreement on a single transit permit TRACECA for international road transport; strengthening cooperation in the field of modern integrated border management within the competence of TRACECA; development of TRACECA multimodal transport in accordance with best practice throughout the entire corridor; improving the safety of transportation; attracting a container flow to the TRACECA corridor to increase the volume of transportation by rail," the secretary general noted.
"It is expected that the member countries of the TRACECA Permit System will implement in the near future a pilot project on the use of electronic permits and launch this mechanism by 2022," Assavbayev said.
"There are many technical details that we have to agree on and approve. In particular, these are issues of verifying the authenticity of permits, developing appropriate software, cyber security issues and others related to the functioning of the information system," he said.
The TRACECA representative said that these permits in hard copy are annually distributed among the member countries of the TRACECA Permit System and are used by international road carriers.
"The need for permits among road carriers is high, and therefore the question of transferring permits to electronic media was raised. The member countries of the Permitting System, including Georgia, Moldova, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine and others, have signed the corresponding Protocol under the auspices of our organization," he added.
"The reconstruction of Sarpi checkpoints on the Georgian-Turkish border has led to positive results in simplifying border crossing procedures, which is also noted in the reports of the UN committees. The border crossing time has also been reduced, which takes no more than five minutes," the secretary general said.
The TRACECA member countries are actively working on simplifying border crossing procedures by increasing the crossing capability of checkpoints and introducing information technologies, Assavbayev said.
"One of the most vivid examples, confirmed by international organizations, is the Sarpi checkpoint on the Georgian-Turkish state border. In addition, currently at the borders of the TRACECA countries, the principles of ‘single window’, risk assessment systems, electronic information and preliminary declaration, an online payment system and others have been introduced. All this has a significant impact on reducing the time of customs clearance at the borders," he said.
Currently, the Permanent Secretariat is working to assess bottlenecks at border crossing for further harmonization of the activities of checkpoints along the entire corridor, the secretary general noted.
"If to talk about the role of the corridor in the development of transit traffic between Europe and Asia, then here, first of all, I would like to highlight the launch of a container train that went from China to Europe in November 2019. The train, loaded with 42 containers with electronics, passed from China to Czech in transit through Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovakia," added Assavbayev.
"At the same time, the China-Turkey container train was also launched this year, consisting of 41 forty-foot containers with various consumer goods. The travel time was 16 days," he said.
"Work is underway to develop railway communication between Europe and Asia. In the future, the launch of a regular container service will create a competitive route. The work carried out made it possible to achieve a twofold growth in 2019 in terms of the volume of cargo transported by container trains (30,000 containers - in 2019, 15,000 containers in 2018)," noted the secretary general.
"In the field of road freight transport, I would like to emphasize once again the role of a single transit permit, which is under consideration by the countries at the moment. In the near future, we hope that the introduction of this permit in electronic form, along with the work on harmonization of the activities of checkpoints, will increase freight traffic along the corridor and attract additional freight traffic,'' he said.
Agreement on a Single Transit Permit (STP) of TRACECA is on the stage of approval by the authorized bodies of the countries of the corridor.
The STP TRACECA initiative is aimed at increasing the competitiveness of the corridor by digitizing the processes and procedures for obtaining permits, and will also help reduce the time and cost of the transportation process and optimize control procedures by reducing the number of permits.
Thus, this agreement will create conditions for increasing the attractiveness of the route and attracting additional road freight traffic.
"I am sure that the implementation of this agreement and the application in practice of the STP in electronic form will increase the volume of transported goods by attracting freight flows from alternative transport routes. Of course, this will also be a significant step in the formation of the TRACECA digital ecosystem," he said.
Touching upon the issue of the COVID-19 pandemic, Assavbayev said that in order to counter the spread of the pandemic in the world, the cargo transportation by rail was practically not affected, but, unfortunately, seriously affected the market of international road freight transportation.
In connection with the outbreak of COVID-19,countries in the Eurasian region have taken a number of temporary measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic.
"At the same time, in the context of existing restrictions in some TRACECA countries, measures taken at the national level were more stringent and, as a result, road carriers faced serious difficulties in performing international delivery of goods by road. For example, the decision of some countries to introduce a 2-week quarantine against drivers of freight vehicles significantly increased the time of transportation, while the decision by other countries to prevent foreign vehicles from entering their territory significantly affected the expediency of transporting goods by road," he said.
"As a result of unilaterally adopted restrictions on drivers, significant congestions of trucks have formed at some checkpoints. The total run time has grown significantly, which has increased the cost of the transported goods. As a result, it negatively affected the competitiveness of road transport," said Assavbayev.
"A number of shippers have decided to reorient their cargo in favor of rail transport. So, since early 2020, there was an increase in cargo transportation by rail, while the volume of road transportation tended to decrease," he noted.
"In the current conditions, TRACECA came up with an initiative to harmonize the measures taken by the parties, developed a number of recommendations and, as an alternative, offered the countries to adopt the Agreed Conditions of Carriage of Goods in the context of the spread of the COVID-19," Assavbayev said.
The TRACECA representative noted that the balance of the cargo transportation system, taking into account the current requirements of different countries at border crossings, will allow transporting essential goods, supporting the transport industry and at the same time ensuring the safety of the population.
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