Baku, February 5, AZERTAC-Yonhap
Azerbaijan, which plays the role of a bridge between Europe and Asia, has huge transit opportunities. The fact that routes from the East to the West and from the North to the South pass through Azerbaijan, makes the country an important logistics hub and a junction of major trade routes between the East and the West and the North and the South.
What plays a vital role in Azerbaijan`s becoming a strategic logistics hub for the entire Eurasian region is the country's favorable geographical location, its possession of the necessary transport infrastructure, particularly the new Baku International Sea Trade Port.
A number of large-scale infrastructure projects have recently been carried out in Azerbaijan's transport sector. This included the construction of the Baku International Sea Trade Port, state-of-the-art airports and roads of international importance, renewal of the railway lines in the direction of the East-West and North-South transport corridors. These projects have made a crucial contribution to the expansion of the country's foreign economic relations.
The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, whose construction is to be completed this year, will substantially elevate Azerbaijan`s significance as a transit country for freight being shipped between Europe and Asia. The shortest route linking Asia and Europe, this railway is believed to ship 30 million tons of cargo a year.
The Europe-Caucasus-Asia (TRACECA) international transport corridor is of pivotal importance in developing transit potential of the South Caucasus and Central Asian countries. This corridor accounts for four-fifths of the total volume of energy resources transited through the Caspian littoral states to the Old World.
Work to restore the historic Silk Road started last August. The first freight train on the International Trans-Caspian transport route travelled from China to the Baku port, covering a distance of 4,768 kilometers (4,258 kilometers by railway and 510 kilometers by sea). From Baku, it headed to Europe via Georgia and Turkey. Chairman of Azerbaijan Railways Javid Qurbanov said: "The opening of the Trans-Caspian transport route is the next step towards Azerbaijan's becoming a transport hub. This will allow to increase the flow of freight and foreign exchange to the country."
This year saw Ukraine join the Trans-Caspian international transport corridor, sending 10 freight cars and 20 forty-foot freight trains to China. A test freight train linking Ukraine with China passed through the Black Sea to the Georgian port of Poti, then arrived in Baku by railroad and departed from the Baku International Sea Trade Port via the Caspian Sea to Aktau, Kazakhstan, and finally reached China.
After the successful test of the route, Ukraine and Lithuania signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) adding the Viking freight train to the Trans-Caspian route. This means that the Silk Road route through Ukraine will connect not only Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and China, but also the European Union (EU) member states. So it`s not hard to guess what this means for Azerbaijan.
In order to promote transit from Europe to China and back, tariffs for the railway shipping from Ilyichevsk to the European Union border have been reduced by 60 percent. Travel time on Ukraine-Georgia-Azerbaijan-Kazakhstan-China route is 11 days, but there are realistic prospects of shortening it to 10 days.
On January 14, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Georgia signed a protocol to set competitive preferential tariffs for cargo shipment on the Trans-Caspian international transport route, which is a strategic link in the TRACECA corridor, and has the potential to carry more than 15 million tons of freight per year.
Air transportation is actively involved in transit operations. Azerbaijan’s Silk Way West Airlines has recently launched direct cargo flights between Baku and the Japanese city of Komatsu. The first flight from the Heydar Aliyev International Airport to Komatsu Airport transported 34 tons of commercial cargo. Silk Way West Airlines will operate regular flights on this route twice a week by Boeing 747-8F Freighter.