By Nigar Orujova
The Trans-Caspian International Transport Route continues to enlarge as Lithuania expressed its interest to join the promising project.
Ukraine and Lithuania have signed a memorandum of joining the Viking container train to the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route that will transport goods from China to Europe, Ukrainian media quoted Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk as saying on February 2.
He noted the need to cooperate with European partners on this issue.
“The fact that Lithuania has showed its interest and we've signed a preliminary memorandum of joining this New Silk Road with the Viking train means that as part of our cooperation with the European Union, as part of the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement not only Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and China will join the route, but also EU members. The Viking from Klaipeda will also receive a chance to ship its goods directly to China bypassing Russia," Yatsenyuk said
The combined transport train Viking has started running from 2003. The project participants include Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia and Bulgaria. The total length of the route from Ukrainian Ilyichevsk – Minsk (Belarus) – and Draugyste in Lithuania is 1,753 km.
Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Ukraine signed a protocol on the establishment of competitive preferential tariffs for cargo transportation on the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route on January 14, 2016.
Next day, Ukraine sent its first test train on the route Ukraine-Georgia-Azerbaijan-Kazakhstan-China via the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. The train reached China on January 31.
Meanwhile, Yatsenyuk instructed the Infrastructure Ministry to explore the possibility of reducing the length of the train flight on Trans-Caspian International Transport Route to 10 days and reduce the cost of transportation, the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers reported.
The Prime Minister noted the importance of reducing the travel time of the experimental train.
“This train was on road for 15 days, but after we will analyze all technical and methodological component of the passage of the train, we need to reduce this time,” he said. “If we can make this train to reach the destination in 10 days, it will further enable us to compensate the costs for the new transit path and accelerate the delivery of Ukrainian goods.”
Currently, shipping of one container to its final destination costs in an average $5,500, which is slightly more expensive than the standard transit routes through Russia, he said.
However, Ukraine has no alternative route now. The country was forced to seek alternative routes for delivering its goods to consumers following tensions with Russia. In this regard, the Trans-Caspian Route is of significant importance for Kiev.
The Trans-Caspian International Transport Route enjoys an opportunity to become attractive and profitable for consignors from European countries. This route will transport approximately 300,000-400,000 containers by 2020, bringing hundreds of millions of manats in profit to Azerbaijan.
Growing interest in the transport infrastructures passing through Azerbaijan's territory is expected to make the country a major transport hub in the region.
Azerbaijan, which is located in the center of this route, is keen to create favorable conditions to increase the importance of the route.
Nigar Orujova is AzerNews’s staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @o_nigar
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