(MENAFN- Trend News Agency) BAKU, Azerbaijan, March 29. Azerbaijan is not only becoming the most significant transport hub
between China and the EU but is also launching a new project that
completely predetermines the economic development of the entire
Recently, the first shipment of crude oil from the
Kashagan field in Kazakhstan was delivered to Baku on the tanker
Academician Khoshbakht Yusifzadeh, owned by the Azerbaijan Caspian
Shipping Company CJSC, along the Aktau-Baku route.
The tanker, carrying the first batch of 6,900 tons of
crude oil, left the Kazakh port of Aktau and arrived at the
Sangachal terminal. The owner of the oil shipped by KazTransOil,
the operator of the main oil pipelines in Kazakhstan, is the
Japanese Inpex North Caspian Sea, Ltd.
According to Hiroshi Ikeda, Director of the Inpex
North Caspian Sea, Ltd. branch in Kazakhstan, the first test
shipment confirmed the possibility of increasing the number of
export routes for 'Kashagan' oil by rail in the direction of the
Prior to this, Kazakhstan supplied crude oil to
European markets through the territory of the Russian Federation.
However, artificial problems seemed to constantly arise along this
route. For instance, in March last year, the transportation of
Kazakh oil through the territory of Russia was suspended. The
reason was the damage to the oil terminal in the port of
Novorossiysk after the hurricane. After this incident, official
Moscow stated that it would take about two months for the terminal
to repair the damage.
In addition, from January through February 2023,
KazTransOil sent 325,900 tons of oil to the Russian port of
Makhachkala. This oil was subsequently transported via the
Makhachkala-Tikhoretsk-Novorossiysk oil pipeline.
It may seem that 6,900 tons of oil are a very small,
even microscopic volume in terms of 'black gold' tanker shipments.
Perhaps it is, but from a geopolitical and especially geo-economic
point of view, this oil, supplied from Aktau to Sangachal, connects
East and West, which means the launch of a new, efficient route on
the economic map of a vast region.
This route is a project of the Trans-Caspian
International Transport Route (TITR), known as the Middle Corridor.
As part of this project, the expansion of the Baku port in the Alat
Free Economic Zone, located 70 kilometers south of the capital of
Azerbaijan, has been completed.
The Middle Corridor passing through Central Asia and
the South Caucasus aims to increase the intensity of energy
carriers and container traffic from East to West.
Unlike China's Belt and Road Initiative, to which once
very high hopes were attached and which was almost declared the
"biggest global project of the new century," the Middle Corridor is
more concrete and efficient.
The first batch of test cargo successfully transported
from the Chinese Central Railway Container Station Tuanjiecun
(Chongqing) to Finland through Baku in May of last year serves as
proof of this. The cargo, which belonged to Nurminen Logistics, was
brought by ferry to the Romanian city of Constanța after being
transported by rail through the Georgian port of Poti.
The road from Tuanjiecun station (Chongqing, China) to
Helsinki, Finland, is 13,000 kilometers long.
Moreover, the Middle Corridor also offers the use of
the Bulgarian port of Varna as an alternative to the Romanian port
of Constanța for cargo bound from China to Europe.
Azerbaijan, China, Kazakhstan, and Georgia intend to
develop the route of the Middle Corridor. According to expert
estimates, the annual potential of the route is 10 million metric
tons or 200,000 containers.
The four countries intend to establish single tariffs
for local companies, as well as simplify the work of cargo
As a result of the war in Ukraine, China and Central Asia
consider it risky to pass export routes through the territories of
their "northern neighbor". This situation has greatly increased the
economic and geopolitical importance of the Middle Corridor.
The volume of rail traffic on the China-Russia-Europe route
increased in 2020-2021 by about 48.7 percent. But, now, due to the
sanctions imposed by the West on Russia, there may be problems with
transportation for Chinese goods on the main Russian transport
routes, especially at ports and border checkpoints.
Moreover, Chinese companies that intended to invest heavily in
the development and expansion of Russia's railway infrastructure
are now seriously reconsidering it.
The Organization of Turkic States (OTS) has an exceptionally
important role in the implementation of the Middle Corridor
project. The project reached the level of a functioning route after
reaching a mutual understanding between the countries included in
And when the second stage of expansion of the Baku port is
completed, 25 million tons of cargo will be transported there
annually, including 500,000 containers in 20-foot equivalent.
At the same time, the necessary infrastructure in the port has
been created for 11 years.
Among the ports that have been developed, expanded, and
modernized ports on the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea within the
project, we should also mention Kazakhstan's Kuryk port and
Turkmenistan's Turkmenbashi port.
If the annual volume of transshipment of the Kuryk port was 4.1
million tons or 240,000 containers in 20-foot equivalent, today
this volume has increased to about 6 million tons. Since the
Turkmenbashi port has a capacity of 4 million tons and 400,000
containers in 20-foot equivalent, at first glance, it can be
considered small for real traffic volumes. And given that the
Middle Corridor is developing rapidly, Turkmenistan's place and
role in the project will increase many times.
The moment that makes it inevitable to realize the nuance we are
talking about is the increase in sea freight rates compared to land
transport in the context of change in global logistics routes.
The launch of the Middle Corridor, while the demand for energy
carriers in the EU and other regions of the world is growing,
significantly increases the attention to the TITR, and boosts the
attention of the leaders of the world's energy industry to
Azerbaijan, as well as to the route of the Trans-Caspian Gas
Pipeline (TSGP) from Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan.
Baku's work, in recent years, related to the creation of a
multimodal transit infrastructure in Azerbaijan has accelerated the
implementation of new opportunities.
Currently one of the three commercial routes between China and
the EU is the TITR, the length of which is 4,256 kilometers by road
and rail, and 508 kilometers by sea.
A regular container train passing through the Middle Corridor
delivers goods from China to Europe in an average of 20-25 days,
which is a serious advantage.
By comparison, the transshipment of goods from China and
Southeast Asia to the EU, through the Suez Canal, takes from 35 to
Azerbaijan, which owns the largest marine fleet in the Caspian
Sea (53 vessels), has become an international transport hub due to
its location at the junction of Europe and Asia. Thereby, the
volume of transit cargo transportation through Azerbaijan increased
by 75 percent last year. This figure has been growing rapidly since
the start of 2023.
China has also intensified within the Middle Corridor and begun
construction of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway route,
which will go to the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea, from where
goods will be delivered by ferries to Baku.
Furthermore, the volume of traffic in reverse is also increasing
from West to East. The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway route is being
modernized, and the necessary work to increase the capacity to 5
million tons per year is scheduled to be completed in 2024.
The unification of customs documentation, the "single window"
system, and the preparation of common principles within the tariff
policy for the operation of the Middle Corridor at full capacity
has also been accelerated.
All this increases both the commercial value and the
geopolitical significance of the route.
Moreover, this will speed up the implementation of the Zangezur
corridor project, since the corridor is the shortest transit route
that can diversify transport routes between China, Central Asia and
The Middle Corridor will stimulate Azerbaijan's economic growth,
as well as the development of the whole region. The corridor will
become an additional tool of influence for establishing peace and
stability in the region and will ensure uninterrupted cargo
transportation to the countries of the EU.
Overall, the West and East are ready for closer cooperation in
transit cargo transportation through Azerbaijan.