Will Caspian Sea-Black Sea route become competitor of BTK?

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The route of the Caspian Sea-Black Sea international transport corridor offers great benefits and advantages for Azerbaijan, Akif Mustafayev, national secretary of Azerbaijan in IGC TRACECA, expert in the field of transport and logistics, told Trend.

He was commenting on the significance of this route, as well as forthcoming participation of Azerbaijan in the discussions of the transport project at the meeting of the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkmenistan and Romania March 4 in Bucharest (Romania).

He said that the topic of the Caspian Sea-Black Sea international transport corridor became relevant back in 1998.

“This route implies the access of Asian countries to Europe through the Caspian Sea, including Azerbaijan and Georgia, via the Black Sea,” he noted. “The multilateral agreement signed by the heads of state and government of twelve states clearly reflects the length of routes, tariffs and discounts on railway transportation tariffs. The document also contains four technical annexes regarding maritime navigation, road transport, technical annex on railway transport and also regarding customs procedures.”

“Thus, all the documents signed by the presidents during that period remain in force up till now and each time are extended for the next five, ten years,” Mustafayev said.

“This route became less popular after the launch of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway,” he said. “But this is not so. A few years ago, the Georgian side was concerned about the BTK route. The Georgian side thought that Georgia’s Black Sea ports, namely, the port of Batumi and the port of Poti will remain without work due to transportation of goods to Europe via the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway.”

“Azerbaijan was able to convince the Georgian side that the goods will be further shipped through Azerbaijan and Georgia in the direction of Georgian ports in the same volume and will be supplied to Europe, while container cargo will be mainly transported along the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway to Europe,” he said.

“That is, the containers will run from China and the Central Asian countries through the ports of Kazakhstan, through the new Baku International Sea Trade Port in Alat, then to Europe through Georgia, Turkey,” Mustafayev added.

“Presently, traditional transportation through the Caspian Sea in the direction of the Black Sea is available,” the expert said.

“Oil is shipped via maritime routes from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan to Baku, then loaded into railway tanks and delivered to Georgian ports. Meanwhile, the route between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea certainly does not compete with the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars route. These are different levels of cargo transportation. If, suppose, we are dealing with the transportation of oil, oil products, trade and construction goods in the first case, then in the second case (via BTK) we are mainly dealing with the transshipping of containers.”

“We assume that the number of containers from China and Central Asian countries will reach about 500,000 units in the next 5 years. If we are to take into account over 20,000 containers currently being transported across the Caspian Sea, it then poses no difficulties to ascertain that the transport project offers tremendous benefits for Azerbaijan,” Mustafayev said.

The expert assumed that the Azerbaijani side, while participating in the upcoming transport project discussions, can achieve more optimal conditions for transportation.

“The agreements adopted 20 years ago require improvement, and there is something to work on,” Mustafayev said.

The expert then drew attention to at least 2 very important corridors in the East-West and North-South direction passing through Azerbaijan.

“This is great achievement for Azerbaijan, because the creation of extensive infrastructure is beyond the power of many countries,” said Mustafayev. “Azerbaijan has done tremendous work in this direction and created powerful infrastructure. Such a well-adjusted policy was laid down since the times of Heydar Aliyev and continues today under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev. Over the past ten years, billions have been invested in the construction of powerful infrastructure facilities, the purchase of railcars, containers, ferries, and a plant has been built for the construction of ships for the work in the Caspian Sea.”

The expert noted that as a result of this work, Azerbaijan holds the first place in the CIS in terms of construction of highways, and ranks about 20th in Europe.

The new transport route is being created on the basis of the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route and the Lapis Lazuli corridor. Romania and Turkmenistan were initiators of the creation of the new transport route. Ashgabat has long been exploring the possibility of transporting goods, including liquefied gas to Constanta. The supply route envisages using special containers and lies through the Caspian Sea to Baku (Azerbaijan), then by rail to the Georgian ports of Batumi or Poti and from there by sea to Romania.