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Kazakhstan offers port, airport management to EU investors

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Kazakhstan offered its Caspian Sea ports of Aktau and Kuryk, as well as 22 airports, to European investors for management to build a strong transit hub between Asia and Europe. The announcement was made by Kazakh Transport Minister Marat Karabayev, speaking in Brussels, at the opening of a 2-day forum dedicated to EU-Central Asia transport connectivity.

“We are ready to hand over the remaining 22 airports of Kazakhstan to European investors for management, which will really become a transit hub between Asia and Europe”, Karabayev said.

In addition, the minister announced a similar partnership concerning the country’s seaports on the Caspian, Aktau and Kuryk.

The forum gathered many officials, but significantly, also a large number of representatives of the business community.

Among the high-level participants were governmental representatives of the five Central Asia countries, as well as high EU officials, including Executive Vice President of the Commission Valdis Dombrovskis, EU foreign affairs Chief Josep Borrell, and the Commissioner in charge of Transport Adina Valean.

Karabayev highlighted the key position of Kazakhstan and thanked European partners for strengthening ties with Central Asian countries through the Global Gateway initiative.

After highlighting a significant increase in road and railway transportation in Kazakhstan, Karabayev stressed that air transport, too, had grown exponentially, the use of Kazakh airspace having doubled over the past two years.

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Indeed, after the introduction of Western sanctions, many international flights were re-routed via Kazakh airspace.

Karabayev said that Kazakhstan was the only country from the post-Soviet space having subscribed to the Fifth Freedom of The Air, an international agreement that allows each European airline to fly from any point in Europe to any point in Kazakhstan.

In the field of civil aviation, the minister said, the two largest airports are already transferred into private ownership – Almaty airport to the Turkish-French company TAV managing Airport de Paris, and Astana’s airport to the company Terminals, which manages Abu Dhabi Airports.

In the present geopolitical situation, these ports have gained importance as part of the Middle Corridor linking China to the EU. The minister said that his country intends to strengthen the maritime fleet and establish a container hub in the port of Aktau, which will begin construction this year. For new investors, Kazakhstan offers 171 hectares to develop terminal capacity.

By 2029, a large project on the production of “green” hydrogen with a capacity of 40 G/watt will be implemented, and the port of Kuryk will transport 12 million tons of “green” ammonia, thus establishing a “green corridor” in the direction of Europe, Karabayev said.

As for maritime traffic, he said that cargo transshipment through the seaports of Aktau and Kuryk had increased by 86% in one year, reaching 2.8 million tons in 2023, compared to 1.5 million tons in 2022.

“This year, we plan to increase this indicator to 4.5 million tons, and by 2025, we will transport 6 million tons”, the minister said.

According to Karabayev, the ports were now mainly used by Kazakh exporters, but his country encouraged European companies to use Kazakh sites as the main transit route between Europe and Asia.

He also said that Kazakhstan offers European companies to transfer the ports of Aktau and Kuryk to trust management on a “ship-or-pay” basis.

The minister invited European companies to participate in the New Silkway Transport Forum, which will be held from 19 to 21 June in Astana, and announced that a large investment forum would be held in Kazakhstan on the partnership between the EU and Kazakhstan in the transport industry in September this year.

Photo by Ivan Shimko on Unsplash

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