Caspian Sea & BTK Railway Poised To Transform Eurasian Trade

The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, which opened up in Azerbaijan on Monday and will move cargo westward to Turkey via Georgia, is getting a lot of attention. But another route, to Azerbaijan’s east, is also in the works and is no less important for regional commerce.
Azerbaijan and its Caspian Sea neighbor Kazakhstan are aiming to increase trade via a water route that will move freight coming into Kazakhstan from places like China, across what is the world’s largest lake, and move westward to Europe via Baku.
On October 26, during a meeting with journalists, Kazakhstan’s ambassador to Azerbaijan, Beybit Isabayev said that by 2020 freight traffic moving from east to west will be increased five-fold, according to preliminary estimates.
From January through September 2017, trade between the two countries reached nearly 1.5 million tons, almost 150 percent more than during the same period last year, according to Isabayev. Goods exported from Kazakhstan were mainly petroleum products, whose those moving from Azerbaijan consisted of chemicals and sugar products, like soda and confectionery foodstuffs.
Both Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan are benefiting from the advantageous geographical location, which allows them acting as pivotal overland transit centers separately in their regions.
As Central Asia’s largest country and largest economy, Kazakhstan is well situated and regarded as a bridge for goods moving from the Far East and through the Caspian.
China in particular, with its $11.2 trillion economy and global exporter status, sees Kazakhstan as a gateway to western markets, and has factored it into Beijing’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) mega-trade initiative, which aims to revive — and expand — the legendary Silk Road, connecting global markets through state-of-the-art overland and sea routes. Astana and Beijing agreed in 2013 to link Kazakhstan’s railways to China’s OBOR project, and are already working on laying down nearly 1,500 km (932 mi) of railway tracks.
Azerbaijan, too, stands to benefit from OBOR and Kazakhstan’s railway initiatives with China.
Smaller in size than Kazakhstan, its position on the western side of the Caspian Sea and close to Turkey gives it the potential to become the major transit hub in the region. Baku, the capital, stands at the crossroads of major air, sea, rail and land routes within Eurasia, including the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR), the North-South and East-West routes, and the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway.
The railway adds value to the region, and consumers, by cutting transit time nearly in half. What normally takes 25-30 days to move from China to Europe will take only 15. Azerbaijan invested over $670 million in the railway’s construction.
«The launch of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is a historically grandiose event, which was preceded by ten years of nonstop work,» Kazakhstan’s ambassador stressed at the press briefing last Thursday.
Astana sees BTK as the key link of the intercontinental Trans-Caspian International Transport Route, which begins in China and passes through Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, and further to Europe.
«The first two echelons [consisting] of 82 containers have already left China and Kazakhstan for Turkey, while another train Kazakhstan’s coal is being prepared for shipment to Romania,» Isabayev said.
After reaching the Kazakhstani port of Aktau, they will make a 30-hour journey across the Caspian Sea to Baku, arriving at its port of Alat, and head north to Georgia before entering Turkey and moving further westward towards Europe.

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Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan eye cargo transportations through Kuryk port

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan discussed the organization of cargo transportation from Uzbekistan through Kazakh port of Kuryk in the Caspian Sea.
The issue was discussed at a meeting of the head of national railway company Kazakhstan Temir Zholy, Kanat Alpysbayev, and the Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister — Chairman of the Board of the Uzbek railway company Uzbekiston Temir Yullari, Achilbay Ramatov, in Tashkent.
Cargo can be delivered to the ports of Azerbaijan, Russia from the Kuryk port.
«Currently, work is underway to expand the range of goods transported through the port of Kuryk, and first of all, exports of goods from Kazakhstan are being processed. Opportunities for the return transportation of transit cargo in the direction of Uzbekistan are being worked out. For example, raw sugar. Volumes are now being discussed. We are talking about 150,000-200,000 tons before the end of the year,» Alpysbaev said.
During the meeting, issues of further development of cooperation in the field of railway transport were also mulled
The parties discussed issues of flexible tariff policy, increase of cargo transportation along the Trans-Caspian international transport route, organization of container trains and deliveries of Kazakhstan railway engineering products to Uzbekistan.
Later, an agreement on the electronic exchange of data on goods imported to Kazakhstan was signed.
Moreover, an agreement was reached on the timely transportation of Uzbek fruits and vegetables to Kazakhstan and Russia.
The Kuryk port with a total area of 40 hectares is located on the Trans-Caspian international transport route (TITR), which is of great importance for handling the cargo going via this route.
TITR, which is created to provide transport connections between the East and West of Eurasia, runs through China, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and then to Europe via Turkey and Ukraine. The route was launched in October 2013. About 300,000-400,000 containers are expected to be transported via the Trans-Caspian international transport route by 2020.
Cargo transportation by rail between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan amounted to 7.554 million tons in January-June 2017, which is 4 percent more than in the same period of 2016, according to Kazakhstan Temir Zholy.
As many as 156 container trains went from China to Uzbekistan through the territory of Kazakhstan in the first half of this year, while last year, only a total of 110 container trains went

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More ports to be on Trans-Caspian Transport Route

The number of ports connected to the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR) will be increased, said Taleh Ziyadov, the Director General of the Baku International Sea Trade Port CJSC.
Ziyadov announced about this while talking to reporters on the sidelines of the second meeting of sister ports within the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States (Turkic Council) in Baku.
Along with the Baku International Sea Trade Port, Kazakh ports of Aktau and Kuryk, as well as Turkish port of Samsun are also involved in the route, said Ziyadov.
«We expect their number to increase,» he added.
The Trans-Caspian international transport route, which is created to provide transport connections between the East and West of Eurasia, runs through China, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and then to Europe via Turkey and Ukraine. The route was launched with the establishment of its Coordinating Committee in October 2013.
In January, 2016, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Ukraine decided to apply the competitive tariffs for cargo transportation via the TITR. New competitive tariffs were introduced for the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route since June 1, 2016.
In October 2016, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Georgia signed an agreement on the establishment of the International Association of TITR, whose office is located in Astana. Its activities are aimed at attracting transit and foreign trade cargo, as well as on the development of integrated logistics products via TITR.
About 300,000-400,000 containers are expected to be transported via the Trans-Caspian international transport route by 2020, bringing huge financial profits to Azerbaijan.

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