(MENAFN- Trend News Agency) BAKU, Azerbaijan, January 22. The establishment
of the business council and TRACECA Fund is under discussion, said
Permanent Representative (National Secretary) of the IGC TRACECA in
Azerbaijan Rufat Bayramov, Trend reports.
The international program TRACECA, which celebrated its 30th
anniversary in 2023, has a solid action plan for 2024-2026. The
plan is designed to summarize the results of the second long-term
Strategy (covering the period of 2016-2026) for the development of
the Europe-South Caucasus-Central Asia transport corridor and
create a basis for further effective steps.
Bayramov noted that the matter involved responding to new global
challenges and increasing the attractiveness of the international
corridor by improving the hard infrastructure (economic entities -
railroads, ports, containers, rolling stock) and soft
infrastructure (legal and information base, automation issues).
He added that there is no doubt about the demand for this
corridor; the interest in the corridor is not waning, even though
its development is going through various stages (1993–2016: direct
financing of projects by the European Commission; 2016–2026:
self-sufficiency and financing in the form of contributions from
He also mentioned that TRACECA's ranks were joined by a new
member - Turkmenistan - in the fall of 2023, which opens up
prospects for increasing cargo traffic and attracting new cargo
from both China and Central Asian countries, which have a huge
potential for economic growth.
"Interest in TRACECA has increased due to Russia's war with
Ukraine; our corridor and region are more topical than ever. There
was a big surge of activity on TRACECA in 2019, but it is quite
possible to bring it back now. Various programs and projects aimed
at making this route even more competitive are being worked out for
this purpose," Bayramov noted.
He added that Azerbaijan's action plan to increase transit
transportation for 2024–2026 fits into the framework of TRACECA
development and will give the international corridor an additional
"Azerbaijan has a developed infrastructure, and steps have been
outlined to improve this infrastructure. The country is integrated
into numerous international trade and transportation projects. This
is both positive and significant for the development of the entire
Europe-South Caucasus-Central Asia corridor," Bayramov said.
He stressed that it is beneficial for the TRACECA member states
that this program supports cooperation with the UN, the World Bank
(WB), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the European Bank for
Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), CAREC, TITR, the
Organization of Turkic Speaking States, and other entities.
"Globally, 96 percent of transportation was carried out by sea;
however, it takes 30-40 days. TRACECA can hardly compete with sea
freight transportation in terms of price, but in terms of time, it
is quite achievable. Thus, cargo delivery from Asia to Europe along
our corridor under ideal conditions takes 12-14 days (verified
data). The West understands this, as do Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan
(the endpoints of the corridor), and they are taking real steps to
improve the performance of the corridor," said the TRACECA
He named the introduction of digital solutions to ensure the
passage of cargo, an increase in the container and ferry fleet, and
the development of port infrastructure on the Caspian Sea among the
priorities for 2024-2026.
"We have a concept of the TRACECA digital corridor until 2030.
We want digitalization to cover all types of transport, the work of
shippers, cargo carriers, and all inspection structures. There are
several working groups within TRACECA. We are moving thoughtfully
as we want to develop an optimal solution to improve the efficiency
of our corridor," Bayramov said.
According to Bayramov, considering the digitalization process in
2024, a single universal electronic consignment note between
Türkiye, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan (CIM/SMGS)
may become officially operational. The experts from a specialized
UN program have greatly assisted in the development of the
"The digitalization of the corridor will increase
containerization, which in the future can transport up to 600,000
containers per year (10 times more than the current limit). Many
shippers prefer container transportation, and this aspect will be
taken into account in the work for the period 2024-2026," he
Touching upon the current year, he noted that it is expected to
agree on the creation of the TRACECA Business Council by mid-2024,
which will include representatives of business, government
agencies, cargo carriers, customs, border authorities, and other
participants in the process of cargo transportation.
"The creation of such a council is very important as it will
allow for the prompt and well-coordinated resolution of current
issues and increase the efficiency of TRACECA along the entire
length of this corridor," noted Bayramov.
Additionally, discussions are underway among the 14
participating countries of the program regarding the creation of
the TRACECA Fund this year, with the participation of both public
and private capital.
"The idea is that within the budget of this fund, priority
projects of a regional nature covering several corridor participant
countries will be considered and selected. Discussions are ongoing
on how the decisions will be made, how the work will be financed,
and who will be part of the fund's management board. These issues
may be agreed upon by mid-2024," said the TRACECA
The most important task of 2024, according to Bayramov, is the
commencement of actual operations by the Middle Corridor Multimodal
unified operator company agreed upon by Georgia, Azerbaijan, and
Kazakhstan in November 2023 – active participants in TRACECA.
"This company has been registered in the Astana FEZ (Free
Economic Zone) in Kazakhstan. A business plan is being prepared for
the operation of the company and the development of an optimal
tariff policy. Hopefully, this unified operator will start
operating in the first half of 2024 and will be able to
successfully negotiate with China, whose cargo is of great interest
to TRACECA," he said.
The TRACECA representative expressed satisfaction with the
coordination efforts of the working groups of corridor participant
countries on customs issues, CIM/SMGS (Uniform Rules Concerning the
Contract for International Carriage of Goods by Rail/ Agreement on
International Goods Transport by Rail), the Fund, and the Business
Council, which, in his opinion, is the key to the success of the
steps planned for 2024.
Moreover, as part of this program, there is an understanding of
the importance of integrating the Zangezur corridor into it, the
"Within the framework of our international program, immediately
after the end of the Second Karabakh war, a small analysis was
conducted, the results of which demonstrated that TRACECA as an
international organization is interested in the inclusion of the
Zangezur Corridor in the network of its routes," Bayramov
According to Bayramov, the emergence of transport corridors with
the involvement of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan
is important both from the point of view of the development of the
Autonomous Republic itself and from the point of view of
stimulating cargo transportation and trade of regional and
The permanent representative considers that the corridor can
give a great impulse to transportation in the Türkiye - Central
Asia and Türkiye - Azerbaijan directions, in the northern and other
In his opinion, Azerbaijan's discussion of transport projects
with Iran and increasing the capacity of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars
railway route (one of the official routes of the TRACECA program)
testify to the important transit role of the region.
"There is no such thing as too many roads. There is demand for
the routes being discussed and implemented," he stated.
Bayramov noted that in 2024 TRACECA will be chaired by Iran,
which is vitally interested in developing routes through Azerbaijan
and further in various directions.
"Iran and Russia have reached an agreement that Russia will
contribute to the construction of a 160-kilometer-long section of
the Resht (IRI)-Astara (Iran-Azerbaijan border) railroad within the
framework of an interstate loan. This road could be completed in
2027 and will become an important component of the international
North-South corridor as well as the regional transportation
networks," Bayramov said.
Russia has agreed to provide Iran with a $1.3 billion soft loan
to build the Resht-Astara railroad over four years at the end of
2023 (starting construction in 2024).
Bayramov also shared his expert opinion regarding the situation
in the Red Sea.
"Due to problems with the security of cargo transportation
through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, the attractiveness of
alternative routes and transportation projects, including the
East-West and North-South international transport corridors (ITC)
passing through the territory of Azerbaijan, is growing," he
He noted that the EU and Asian countries, which previously
actively used the route for cargo transit through the Red Sea and
the Suez Canal, are now studying the possibilities of diversifying
"Objectively, the situation now is such that our region and
international transportation corridors in it are becoming more
relevant than ever, and I think that many cargo suppliers and their
recipients will be even more active in interaction with the
countries participating in the East-West and North-South projects,"
According to him, cargoes from India to Europe, bypassing the
Red Sea, could be more directed through one of the segments of the
"North-South" international transport corridor, whose
implementation would allow for a 50 percent reduction in delivery
"All the necessary infrastructure is being created in
Azerbaijan. Iran has also become active in the construction of the
Rasht-Astara railroad (part of the North-South route) after
receiving guarantees from the Russian Federation on financing this
section and has already started specific work. I think that in the
case of forced implementation of the North-South project, about 10
million tons of cargo can be transported through it per year, thus
unloading the route through the Suez Canal," Bayramov stressed.
Pirate attacks on ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Suez, as
well as the unsettled situation in the Middle East (in Gaza), have
led to the fact that the Suez Canal, according to Flexport, has
already lost 20 percent of global traffic.
States participating in the international TRACECA program are
responding quickly to global climate requirements, Bayramov
For example, a semi-trailer transportation initiative was
implemented in experimental mode on the TRACECA route to reduce
environmental pollution during freight transportation, which also
helped to cut transportation costs. The semi-trailers were headed
from Poland to the Georgian Poti Sea Port in the Black Sea, then to
the Azerbaijani Alyat Port for further transport to Central Asia
via the Caspian Sea.
"Ferry transportation of a truck with a semi-trailer is nearly
twice as expensive as transporting a semi-trailer separately." The
experimental initiative also sought to minimize pollution in
nations along the freight route. "The pilot project was a success,
and this mode of transportation will be used actively in 2024 and
beyond," Bayramov added.
According to Bayramov, another important point concerning the
compliance of TRACECA member countries with international
environmental norms is the growth of container transportation.
"As part of the international 'Green Deal' around the world,
containerized transportation allows for more environmentally
friendly delivery of cargo and food products from producers to
customers," he said.
According to the national secretary of TRACECA in Azerbaijan,
the mentioned two projects (transportation of semi-trailers and
transportation of containers) will help in the realization of the
concept of a green transport corridor.
In addition, the Caspian port of Alat in the Azerbaijan Free
Economic Zone (AFEZ) is being developed precisely taking into
account the "green trends.".
"Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping Company (ASCO) has also
strengthened environmental control over ballast water, which
corresponds not only to Azerbaijan's environmental obligations but
also to global trends," Bayramov added.
Taking into account the fact that Azerbaijan will host the COP
29 climate summit in November 2024, Bayramov considers such steps
Bayramov also spoke about the current project of the Caspian
littoral states participating in the international TRACECA program
- the creation of an optimal vessel for transportation across the
"This issue came up due to the need to optimize the cost of
transportation across the water reservoir. Many vessels involved in
cargo transportation through the Caspian Sea are outdated. There is
a need for new vessels that would meet the current conditions of
work in this basin. Specialists, including those from ASCO and
similar companies of the Caspian countries, have started
consultations and are making calculations as to what
characteristics the "optimal vessel" should have (length, width,
cargo capacity). Each side presents its recommendations. Perhaps,
next year they will be summarized, as the construction and
operation of such vessels is one of the topical issues to increase
the attractiveness of transportation corridors across the Caspian
Sea," Bayramov said.
At present, due to the Caspian Sea shoaling, ports can only
serve light-tonnage vessels (draft not more than four meters), and
sometimes these vehicles can be loaded only 70-75 percent.
Baku Shipyard takes these realities into account and is open to
accepting orders for the construction of optimal vessels.
ASCO has the largest fleet in the Caspian Sea (more than 50
vessels) and continues to replenish it with vessels for various
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