Baku, Azerbaijan, Feb. 11
By Maksim Tsurkov - Trend:
Azerbaijan, which has historically been one of the major transit centers in Eurasia, has somehow stayed away from the global transportation for a long time. Despite the country's unique position on the border of Europe and Asia, Azerbaijan has, for a long time, used its transit possibilities only partially. But now it is time to fully realize the potential in the current economic conditions.
Azerbaijan is well aware of this and does all the necessary work in order to increase the cargo flow through its territory. The main way is to participate in the international transport corridors, the importance of which is extremely difficult to overestimate for any country's economy. Meanwhile, it is not only the commercial benefits, but also the strategic importance of such projects.
Due to its favorable geographical position, Azerbaijan is ready to bind the northern countries with those in the south and the western ones with the eastern ones through its territory. Similar projects have already been successfully implemented.
So, Iran's ambassador to Azerbaijan Mohsen Pak Ayeen said earlier that Iran has started the construction of its part of Qazvin-Rasht and Astara (Iran) - Astara (Azerbaijan) railway within the North-South international transport project, which will connect railways of Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran, and as a whole, will regulate the trade between Northern Europe and Southeast Asia.
This is quite a long way, around 5,000 kilometers, stretching through the territory of Azerbaijan as well. The annual transit of goods from Iran to Russia via Azerbaijan is around 10 million tons. This figure between Europe and India is around 25 million tons. Most of goods are transported by sea. This takes from 45 to 60 days. The implementation of the North-South project will reduce the delivery time twofold-threefold. So, the transportation of cargo through the territory of Azerbaijan is more acceptable.
The beginning of the construction of Iran's sections was an important action towards the project implementation. In general, an 8.5 kilometer-railway section between Iran and Azerbaijan must be built till late 2016.
Another major project is the East-West or the Trans-Caspian transport corridor which is being tested. It connects China with Europe via the territories of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Georgia. This is a multimodal corridor. The railway, maritime and road transport are used during transportation through this corridor.
Three test container trains have been already launched via this corridor from China to Europe. The project has proved itself from such a reasonable side that even Ukraine decided to join in, allowing to reach Europe through Ukraine's territory much faster. The test train runs from Ukraine to China for 18 days. Kiev is trying to reduce this period to 10 days.
Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Ukraine have already signed a protocol on the establishment of preferential tariffs for cargo transportation via this route, and in February it is expected to sign the final one in order to resolve technical problems. This should help to ensure the full commercial operation of the Trans-Caspian route in March 2016.
Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway will become the major component of this corridor. The Georgian section of the road is completely ready, Turkey has accelerated construction work and promised to complete it in 2016. With its launch, cargo can reach Europe via Turkey as well.
Considering all these factors and the steps taken, Azerbaijan quite reasonably expects to significantly increase the volume of cargo transportation through its territory. In 2015, the transport sector of the country transferred 222.4 million tons of cargo, which is 0.2 percent higher than in 2014, however now this growth will be more notable.
When the corridors reach their full capacity, incomes of Azerbaijan by 2025 can amount to $1 billion per a year with a subsequent increase. All the measures and reforms implemented by the government of the country suggest that Azerbaijan will fully implement its transit and transport potential.