(MENAFN- Trend News Agency)
BAKU, Azerbaijan, July 1. The Middle Corridor
[Trans-Caspian International Transport Route] will remain highly
competitive to the overall benefit of Georgia and Azerbaijan, Iain
Rawlinson, Chief Commercial Officer at APM Terminals Poti, a
company, operating Georgia's Poti Port, told Trend in an interview.
“The Middle Corridor may become competitive, compared to the
Northern Corridor, due to its efficiency and transparency. For the
Middle, Corridor to become competitive when the war in Ukraine
comes to an end, and the situation across the region normalizes, it
is going to require that it is extremely efficient in creating the
transparent, effective rail-sea-real transportation links,” he
According to Rawlinson, it is very hard to give a forecast for
this year, because uncertainties posed by the Russia-Ukraine
conflict, as well as the continued implications of COVID-19 in
China, directly affect the global supply chain. However, today,
Chinese cargo, which is historically run through Russia, is being
handled very well through the Middle Corridor.
As the chief commercial officer explained, the Russian corridor
between China and Europe is pretty good, although there are
challenges on the board between Belarus and Poland. Today, all the
players on the Middle Corridor need to drive the concept of the
Central Asia - Caucasus market as a part of the Chinese market,
because, as he said, the Chinese market will ultimately tend to
move back to the Northern Corridor when it reopens.
“The Middle Corridor will remain highly competitive when the
Northern Corridor reopens to the overall benefit of Georgia and
Azerbaijan. The opportunities for the countries on the Corridor to
take advantage of the infrastructure and connectivity, and then to
start driving local industries, are enormous,” he said.
As Rawlinson noted, the small and medium-sized enterprises
(SMEs) of both Azerbaijan and Georgia need to set up and take
advantage of the connection the Corridor creates, and therefore,
drive the economic growth in the two countries.
“We see that it is not enough for us to look just at our own
business. The APM Terminals closely engages with infrastructure
providers from Azerbaijan, as well as Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.
We also work with all major shipping lines to connect Poti to the
European ports, such as Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkiye, as well as
with the European railway operators, especially in Poland and
Germany, to secure the connectivity, communication, and
transparency of the Middle Corridor,” he added.
Further speaking, the chief commercial officer noted that APM
Terminals is actively cooperating with Azerbaijani partners in
order to improve communications across the region.
“We are in close, great cooperation with the Port of Baku. We
also work with Azerbaijan Railways (ADY) on the railway
perspectives to make sure that we are fully aligned on the Middle
Corridor, and to make sure that cargo is moving extremely smoothly
between the two countries, so the customers' experience of using
the Middle Corridor will only be positive,” he said.
According to the chief commercial officer, Azerbaijan is one of
the largest trading partners of Georgia, and major manufacturers in
Azerbaijan have a need for connectivity through Georgia, and APM
Terminals is in close cooperation with a few quite major companies
on an ongoing basis.
“We are working with a number of Azerbaijani companies. Because,
at the end of the day, particularly on the Middle Corridor,
Georgia's success, and Poti's success, is closely aligned with
Azerbaijan's success, both as part of the transit corridor, and
also to improve Azerbaijan's connectivity with the rest of the
world,” Rawlinson added.
Commenting on the APM Terminals' turnover, the chief commercial
officer said the company recorded a significant rise in cargo flow
in and out of the Poti Port over the first quarter of 2022.
“ The tragic events unfolding in Ukraine right
now have left the Caucasus region with big challenges in terms of
the ability to get the cargo in and out. We have seen quite a
significant increase, at least in the short term, over the last
couple of months. How stable this is going to be is hard to say,
because there is a big overall uncertainty in the region at the
moment,” he said.
According to Rawlinson over the past two years , APM Terminals saw a substantial decline in volumes - over 20
percent each year.
“At the same time, we discovered new opportunities to diversify.
We moved our focus to rail ferry and general cargo operations, and
we were able to at least cover most of the financial shortages,” he
Rawlinson explained that as a result of a combination of a
change in trade patterns in 2022, container volumes started
returning into the Black Sea and Georgia in particular.
“What we are seeing is an enormous interest on the part of both
neighbors in the Caucasus, and also across the Caspian, in Central
Asia. They are interested in promoting the Middle Corridor rail
connection both for cargo originating out of China, which over the
last few years has moved through Russia, but more recently we see
it coming through Kazakhstan, across the Caspian, through
Azerbaijan, and then to Georgia's Poti, to be delivered by sea into
Europe. The reason for this is that Northern Corridor across Russia
is simply impossible to operate through right now,” Rawlinson
Today the company has a capacity of roughly 500-550,000 20-foot
equivalent units (TEUs) per annum, which is an increase, compared
to the last year when the operator handled just over 300,000 TEUs -
around 60 percent of total capacity. The company is working closely
with regional partners in order to improve the connectivity and
cargo flow further.
Rawlinson also added that APM Terminals is working closely with
the Georgian Government on new expansion projects.
“We have already embarked on an expansion project in the Port of
Poti. We have broken ground on the renovation of the existing
breakwater. The Port of Poti was founded in 1858, so the
infrastructure is a significant part of our cost in maintaining the
existing facility. This project will make sure that the breakwater
will continue to be strong and big enough to protect the Port from
the bad weather, particularly in winter,” Rawlinson said.
According to the chief commercial officer, another major
investment is a project which is tied with the first one - the
development of a new breakwater, and the construction of two new
“Those will be births each 15 meters deep, which will be able to
handle the biggest ships that come into the Black Sea today. That
is pending the government's approval right now,” he added.
As Rawlinson noted, APM Terminals is also working closely with
the regional railway organizations to improve communications across
the Caucasus and further.
“Talking about the Middle Corridor, it is a complex supply chain
that railways and the sipping companies across the Black Sea and
the Caspian use. 13 different parties are involved - from
China-Kazakhstan border through Georgia's Poti. We work closely
with the regional railway companies to manage and control the flow
of cargo, so it goes efficiently and reliably,” he concluded.
APM Terminals is a port operating company headquartered in the
Netherlands and is a unit of the Transport and Logistics division
of the Danish Maersk shipping company.
Follow the author on Twitter: @mariiiakhm