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Analysis – A New Caspian Sea-Black Sea Transport Corridor To Link Port Of Baku With Turkey’s Samsun And Trabzon, Could Diminish Poti Port

Analysis – A new Caspian Sea-Black Sea transport corridor to link port of Baku with Turkey’s Samsun and Trabzon, could diminish Poti port

Source: Port of Baku
Baku, Azerbaijan (PortSEurope) June 9, 2021 – Construction of the Azerbaijani section of the railway to Azerbaijan’s landlocked exclave of Nakhchivan that passes through the recently liberated territories, has started. This is the first of a number of developments, including the building of an international airport and highways that will turn the Zangilan district of Azerbaijan into a transport hub at the crossing point of the borders
of Iran, Armenia and Azerbaijan. It will also be part of the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR), one of the international trade routes linking China and Europe. The Trans-Caspian International Transport Route TITR starts from Southeast Asia and China, runs through Kazakhstan, across the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and on to Europe. With the establishment of a direct link between Azerbaijan’s Caspian Sea port of Baku and Turkey’s Black Sea ports of Trabzon and Samsun via the new Zangezur Corridor (that runs through territory still controlled by Armenia), one country – Georgia – will be taken out of this equation. This could concern Georgia’s Black Sea Poti port which has been expanding in recent years. But Tbilisi should not worry that it will be bypassed any time soon. On June 1, Armenia and Azerbaijan stopped talks over reopening their borders and creating new transportation routes, following what seems to be Armenian hesitation. The new Zangezur Corridor Yerevan’s preference was, instead of the new Zangezur Corridor (the name Azerbaijanis use for the region) to restore another Soviet-era railroad, through Ijevan in northern Armenia and Gazakh in Azerbaijan that would connect it to its ally Russia. How Armenia’s position will evolve, also depends on country’s parliament elections on June 20. Baku, Moscow and Yerevan are trying to negotiate the construction of the Armenian section of the route, the Zangezur Corridor, between mainland Azerbaijan and its exclave Nakhchivan. The Zangezur corridor passes through Armenia, but the railroads there are controlled by the Russian-owned South Caucasus Railway Company, an owner and operator of Armenia’s railroads. The agreed direct link between Turkey and Azerbaijan, secured in the ceasefire deal between Azerbaijan and Armenia that ended the “six weeks war” for the mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, will most likely follow the E002 road via Azeri exclave of Nakhchivan, then in Armenia along the border with Iran and will connect to Azerbaijan’s transport network. The E002, part of the International E-road network, is a mountainous B class road that starts from the Turkish border with Nakhchivan and passes via a limited number of cities. Its use will give Turkey a land bridge to the rump Azerbaijan, and in future, direct access to Azeri ports on the Caspian Sea. Azerbaijan’s victory in the war that ended in November 2020 gave it also a direct road link to Nakhchivan. Turkey has been looking for just such a strategic connection between its Black Sea ports of Trabzon and Samsun and Azerbaijan’s Caspian Sea port of Baku since the late eighties when Nagorno-Karabakh and its surrounding areas seceded from Azerbaijan and were taken over by Armenia during the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic is a landlocked exclave of Azerbaijan bordering Armenia to the east and north, Iran to the south and west, and Turkey to the northwest. Until today, Azerbaijan’s transport links to Nakhchivan were via Iran and a longer version via Georgia and Turkey. Now there will be a road and a railway link via Armenia that would allow direct transportation of goods between Turkey and Azerbaijan, and between Turkey’s Black Sea ports and Azeri ports on the Caspian Sea, without crossing Iranian or Georgian borders. It is still unclear whether this corridor between “mainland” Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan would involve any transfer of territory (between Armenia and Azerbaijan). Armenia would “guarantee the security of transport links…unimpeded movement of citizens, vehicles, and cargo in both directions,” the ceasefire agreement said. According to media reports, the border guard units of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSS) will control this corridor. The agreement also states that “by agreement of the parties, the construction of new transport communications connecting the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and Azerbaijan’s western regions will be provided”. But it is not clear whether this is going to be a road only for Azeri vehicles and cargo and whether the road is going to be Azeri or Armenian territory. In case such a road is under Azerbaijan’s control, this is going to create a “legal border crossing wall” between Armenia and Iran. Nagorno-Karabakh Under the deal, Azerbaijan will keep territorial gains made in the fighting that started on September 27, including the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave’s second largest and strategic city of Shusha/Shushi. NATO member Turkey, Azerbaijan’s main supporter and arms supplier, said the deal had secured important gains for its ally. Azerbaijan says it retook much of the land in and around Nagorno-Karabakh that it lost in a 1991-94 war in which about 30,000 people were killed. The establishment of the Nakhchivan Corridor in the Megri region of Southern Armenia will create new economic opportunities for the countries in the region and for their ports. For more information see PortSEurope article Description of the Turkey-Azerbaijan direct road link gained from the Nagorno-Karabakh war – November 11, 2020 If Armenia accepts the new realities after the six weeks’ war, it will be possible from Turkey’s Black Sea ports to reach Central Asia via Baku (Azerbaijan) and then (across the Caspian Sea) Aktau (Kazakhstan) or Turkmenbashi (Turkmenistan), passing through Yerevan and through the Kars Alican. When the Macka and Kop Mountain tunnels, which are still under construction, are completed, border access will be possible even during the winter. Then truck transportation between Asia, Europe and back to Asia will be carried out by Ro-Ro ships via Turkish Trabzon Port, which has good connections to Black Sea ports in Bulgaria and Romania, for onward trade with Europe. The South Caucasus region has the opportunity to become one of Eurasia’s most important transport corridors. The increasing trade between China and Europe should motivate the countries that lie between them to develop their transport and logistics capabilities in order to meet the expected surge in demand. Azerbaijan is enjoying a strengthened position as the main transport hub on the East-West and North-South crossroad corridors in the heart of the Eurasian continent. Azerbaijan is the splitting point along the Middle Corridor in the South Caucasus, as the Middle Corridor branches out in Azerbaijan in a south and north directions. Traceca In Q1, 2021, Azerbaijan transported 10.1 million tonnes of cargo along the transport corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia (TRACECA), a decrease of 18.8% compared to the same period of 2020. According to data from the State Customs Committee, 5.6 million tonnes (55.4%) of the cargo transportation was by automobiles, 3.3 million tonnes (32.9%) by rail and 1.1 million tons (11.7%) by sea. Transit cargo accounted for 2.3 million tons or 23.5%. In 2020, TRACECA transported 35.5 million tons of cargo through Azerbaijan, including 7.5 million tonnes (21.2%) of transit cargo. TRACECA is an internationally recognized programme aimed at strengthening of economic relations, trade and transport communication in the regions of the Black Sea basin, South Caucasus and Central Asia owing to active work based on political will and common aspirations of all member-states. In 1998, 12 TRACECA countries signed the “Basic Multilateral Agreement on International Transport for Development of the Europe-the Caucasus-Asia Corridor” (MLA) with the aim of implementing in full of their geopolitical and economic potentials. In 2009, Iran joined TRACECA. Today, the TRACECA route comprises the transport system of the 13 member-states of the “Basic Multilateral Agreement on International Transport for Development of the Europe-the Caucasus-Asia Corridor” (MLA TRACECA): Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Romania, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Port of Baku Azerbaijan is also building up its own transport potential, since the turnover from trade at the Port of Baku in the Caspian Sea, the first “Green Port” among 26 ports in Europe to receive such status, increased 20% in 2020. The Port of Baku accommodated most of 2020’s surge, along with transcontinental transport and trade across Eurasia. The throughput of large vehicles (TIRs) and containers in that year was a 30-year record. In 2020 the number of trucks processed by the port increased by 28%, container exports by 15% and the volume of cargo transported through the dry cargo terminal by 280%. As such, compared to the last five years, there has been a five-fold increase in truck cargo, three times as many containers, and an increase of three and a half times the volume of cargo handled at the dry cargo terminal in the Port of Baku. Azerbaijan plans to build both a mineral terminal and a grain terminal, taking into account the increase in exports of carbamide and sulphur from Turkmenistan, and large grain exports from Kazakhstan. A new geography of transcontinental transport and trade is in the making across Eurasia, as, in 2020, the “EU-China Express” freight trains reached a landmark transit of the equivalent of half a million TEU containers, an increase of 65% over 2019. By taking advantage of new opportunities, once it has opened communications within the region, it would be possible to reach both the Persian Gulf and Russia through Azerbaijan. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (new Silk Road) and Turkey’s Middle Corridor project are being complemented by Azerbaijan’s efforts to increase its transit transport facilities. Copyright (C) PortSEurope. All Rights Reserved. 2021.

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