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Azerbaijani, Kazakh Presidents Watch China-Azerbaijan Container Train Arrival

By Ilham Karimli March 13, 2024

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The 61-container train, dispatched by the Transport Logistics Center launched by Kazakhstan in Xi'an, China, arrives in the Absheron station, Azerbaijan, March 11, 2024 / President.Az

The President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, and his Kazakh counterpart, Kassym Jomart-Tokayev, watched a teleconference in Baku on Monday, observing the arrival of a container train to Azerbaijan via the Middle Corridor.

The 61-container train completed its 7,000-kilometer journey from Xi’an, China, through Kazakhstan to the Absheron station in Azerbaijan in 11 days. The cargo was dispatched by the Transport Logistics Center owned by Kazakhstan.

During the multimodal transportation, the containers were reloaded at the ports of Kazakhstan and then transported via the Caspian Sea to the Baku International Sea Trade Port, and subsequently to the Absheron station aboard trains operated by the Azerbaijan Railways Company.

The launch of the Transport Logistics Centre in China, aimed at significantly increasing the volume of cargo transportation along the route, is intended to promote the development of the Middle Corridor and attract new cargoes. According to initial planning, it is expected to dispatch 10 container trains to Azerbaijan per month through the Kazakhstan-owned logistics center in China.

Azerbaijani and Kazakh railway operators have been working to significantly increase the volume of cargo transportation by 2024. During January-February 2024, the volume of cargo transportation between Azerbaijan Railways and Kazakhstan Railways increased by 25% compared to the same period in 2023, amounting to 539.5 thousand tons, thanks to joint efforts to upgrade the Middle Corridor’s capability.

The developing Middle Corridor is increasingly reshaping East-West connectivity. Previously, the delivery of cargoes from China to the Black Sea ports via the interregional route took approximately 53 days, whereas now it has been reduced to 18 days.

The Trans Caspian International Route or the Middle Corridor is seen as the main pivot for realizing the high transit potential of the Central Asian and South Caucasus nations.

Compared to the Northern Corridor, the Middle Corridor provides a more cost-effective and faster trade route, cutting travel distance by 2,000 kilometers. Additionally, the Middle Corridor passes through more favorable climate conditions and reduces travel time by 15 days compared to sea routes. The Middle Corridor also presents immense opportunities for cargo traffic in Asia, enabling goods to reach the Middle East, North Africa, and the Mediterranean region by integrating port connections in Türkiye.

Since 2022, cargo deliveries on the Middle Corridor through regional countries, including Azerbaijan, have grown considerably. The Azerbaijan Railways Company announced over 18 million tons of freight transportation, including about 7 million tons of transit cargo, in 2023.

In October 2023, Azerbaijan Railways, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy national railway, and Georgian Railway inked an agreement to establish a joint venture – Middle Corridor Multimodal – that would spearhead joint efforts to develop multimodal service on TITR.

The company acts as a one-stop platform for rendering services to guarantee delivery times and pursue a coordinated policy for offering better multimodal service on the China-Europe/Türkiye-China route.

In December 2023, Azerbaijan continued cargo shipments from China on the Middle Corridor, completing the multimodal transportation via the China-Kazakhstan-Azerbaijan route in 8-12 days.

Azerbaijan is currently expanding the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, a key artery in the Middle Corridor multimodal structure. The railroad, vital for the swift transport of goods from China and Central Asian nations to Europe, is undergoing extensive repairs and expansion, with 95% of the work already completed on a challenging 183 km stretch through Georgia’s varied landscape.

The modernization, which has been in progress since 2023, aims to make the BTK route more competitive and capable of handling the growing demand for cargo transportation.

A recent review on March 2 by the heads of the Azerbaijani, Georgian, and Turkish railway authorities underscored the commitment to finishing the project on time. Rovshan Rustamov, Chairman of Azerbaijan Railways, announced the project’s imminent completion in April.

The strategic location of the Middle Corridor, enhanced by stakeholders’ developing transport grids, is expected to create significant economic opportunities, enabling South Caucasian and Central Asian countries to benefit from the $600 billion China-Europe trade annually. The development and deepening of Trans-Caspian cooperation will be facilitated by the establishment of logistics centers and free trade zones at the ports of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan, providing a boost to regional economies. By leveraging the benefits of the Middle Corridor effectively, the countries in the region can reap the rewards of increased trade and economic growth.