Azerbaijan develops into regional transportation hub
By Ayya Lmahamad
Transport routes through the South Caucasus are becoming increasingly popular as more countries seek ways to bypass Russia. Given the current situation, Azerbaijan has the potential to become one of the transport and logistics hubs through which freight traffic will pass.
Today, new realities are emerging, and under these conditions, it is possible to assert that regionalization is becoming a trend, with the countries of the South Caucasus region determining the parameters of economic activity in the region.
In the current situation, Azerbaijan's role as a regional transportation hub is irreplaceable. As the most stable projects, transportation via the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway and Azerbaijan's transit along the route of the New Silk Road are becoming increasingly popular. In terms of the North-South corridor, its significance for Russia is difficult to overestimate, especially in light of the sanctions.
Azerbaijan's modern and dependable transport and logistics infrastructure can withstand the heavy load and keep the region's economic processes and commodity flow moving.
Other countries are increasingly interested in traveling through the South Caucasus. For example, given recent geopolitical situations and the fact that nearly 90 percent of Kazakhstan's logistics are tied to Russian territory, this route has become more of a focus of interest for the country. Currently, an increase in transportation through the Trans-Caspian international transport route in the direction of Azerbaijan and Georgia (ports: Baku, Batumi, and Poti) is being planned in order to ensure the uninterrupted transportation of cargo from Kazakhstan to European countries.
In light of this, other Central Asian countries will begin to seriously consider the possibility of transporting goods through the South Caucasus.
In this regard, China has recently launched a railway route to Germany, allowing trains to bypass Russia and arrive in Mannheim. The first train left Xi'an city on April 13. The route crosses the Caspian and Black Seas by rail and sea, passing through Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.
The new route passes through countries and regions where China-Europe trains have rarely passed before. Now, transportation efficiency will improve and costs will fall.
Rail corridors from China to bypass Russia have been in the works for decades. Thus, traffic on the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route was 25,200 TEU in 2021, and 11,000 TEU on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad. Furthermore, approximately 3,000 containers were transported along TRACECA during the first two months of 2022, across the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.
This new route project will significantly strengthen Azerbaijan's position in the East-West transport corridor.
Furthermore, Finland's largest freight operator Nurminen Logistics recently announced its intention to develop the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR). As a result, on March 16, the Finnish company signed a commercial use agreement with Kazakh State Railways.
It should be noted that the Trans-Caspian transport route is a vital trans-Eurasian corridor that runs through the South Caucasus. The route begins in Southeast Asia and China and travels to Europe via Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey. It is one of the new Silk Road routes, the Middle Corridor of the 'One Belt, One Road' project. During the crisis, this transport corridor proved to be the most profitable, safest, reliable and stable. As a result, this corridor, which runs through Azerbaijan, is attracting the attention of an increasing number of exporters and importers.
The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars route is another important transportation route that passes through Azerbaijan. The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is of exceptional importance for transforming Azerbaijan into a regional transportation hub. The agreement on the construction of the railway, which opened in 2017, was signed in 2007 in Tbilisi by the Azerbaijani, Georgian, and Turkish leaders. The 828-kilometer Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway runs from the Caspian Sea coast in Azerbaijan to the Georgian capital, and then to Turkey, connecting the country's extensive railway system and gaining access to European borders.
The North-South Transport Corridor was established on the basis of an intergovernmental agreement signed on September 12, 2000, by Russia, Iran, and India. Azerbaijan became a party to this agreement in 2005. The Corridor's goal is to reduce cargo delivery times from India to Russia, as well as to Northern and Western Europe. Given the current global situation and sanctions, this route and Azerbaijan's role as a transit country have become critical for Russia.
In short, the volume of international freight traffic passing through Azerbaijan is likely to increase significantly in the near future. The country's infrastructure of ready for this. Azerbaijan is now transforming into a regional transportation hub, ensuring that the global economy does not stall.
Ayya Lmahamad is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @AyyaLmahamad
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