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Middle Corridor intends to strengthen and contribute EU–Asia trade and co-operation

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As many readers may have knowledge of the increase of the role of trans-eurasian railway corridors, especially through the lens of the actual EU policy towards to the goals of the increase of railways share within transport sector and making the economies more sustainable and cleaner, we find it quite in time and co-ordinated in harmony with the intentions of the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR or Middle Corridor) to contribute to these ambitious goals and to become a partner of the EU towards this direction, writes International Association Trans-Caspian International Transport Route Secretary General Rakhmetolla Kudaibergenov.

History and facts

In February 2014 the Coordination Committee for the Development of the TITR was established with the initial membership of the infrastructure companies of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Kazakhstan (3 railways, 3 ports and shipping). Among the activities of the Coordination Committee was first of all the experience of the international coordinated work, forming effective tariff rates for container transportation, for transportation of general cargo (fuels, gasoil, grain, metals etc.) and the organization of the first pilot container trains "Nomad Express" in 2015-2016.

Further the Coordinating Committee participants decided to establish the International Association “TITR” with headquarters in Astana, which has started its activities since February 2017.

Now after 4 years after its establishment the TITR association became known and well recognized. Today it is represented by 8 countries (Ukraine, Poland, China, Turkey and Romania joined) and 20 state and private companies-members. It is non-profit association with the exceptionally commercial goals:

  • Attracting transit and foreign trade cargo to the TITR,
  • Development of integrated logistics products along the corridor,
  • Development of an integrated solution (technology) for the transportation process across TITR,
  • Promotion of the competitiveness of TITR in comparison with alternative routes,
  • Operating an effective tariff policy, optimization of costs,
  • Reduction of administrative barriers related to the border and customs procedures and related to the shipment processing.

The definition of the TITR, as it follows accordingly from its name, is the all railfreight in between Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan ports at the Caspian Sea of all the types of cargo and direction (transit, import and export). So TITR is providing its service for transportation of cargo from China and Central Asian countries towards Europe and Africa as well as in the opposite directions. As for today the significant part of cargo is a wide range of Kazakhstani exports, including petrochemicals, LPG, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, coal, coal coke, ferroalloys, cereals, oilseeds, legumes and many others.

The main difference of the Middle Corridor is that we provide not only container service, but also wagon shipments and project cargo. It is widely known that the main driver of growth in traffic in the direction of China – Europe has become "subsidies" from the Government of China, but as the development of our route takes place with their insignificant participation, this demonstrates our big margin of safety and readiness for any market changes that may become even more favorable to us. Moreover because the potential of the cargo base is very high in absolutely all the directions.

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During the last 2020, COVID-19 pandemic year, there have been no stops or interruptions in the work of the TITR. Of course, only common well-coordinated work of all the participants of TITR, a clear technology for organizing container trains, reduced transportation times and the competitive tariffs are the key to the success achieved. In 2016 only 122 containers in TEU passed through our route   and in 2020 there are already around 21 000 TEU containers.

As by the results of 5 months of 2021 the volume of cargo transportation along the TITR amounted to 218 thousand tons, out of it 120 thousand tons or 55% is a transit through Kazakhstan, which is 14% more than in the same period in 2020. Transportation of goods in this direction is carried out mainly in containers. The increase of West-East traffic by 2 times is due to the supply of meat and by-products from the United States to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, sugar to Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, sodium tetraborate from Turkey to China. The westbound traffic volumes for 5 months of 2021 amounted to 83 thousand tons, which is almost the same as in the same period in previous year. While its structure has been changed, including an increase to 3,4 times of traffic of tomato paste from China to Italy and doubled volumes of walnuts from China to Turkey.

From January 1, 2021 to the present, 47 container trains have passed along the route in the westbound direction and 4 trains on the Turkey – China leg of the corridor. Total volume of container traffic therefore in 5 months of 2021 amounted to 9674 TEU or 27% higher than in 5 months of 2020.

New hub of Aktau and the perspectives and opportunities for the European business

As a new growing-point on the logistics map of Eurasia – Aktau (in the western part of Kazakhstan) is expected in the future to be recognized and effective as the Khorgos Dry Port at the Khorgos – Altynkol border point between China and Kazakhstan.


Rakhmetolla Kudaibergenov, Secretary General, International Association “Trans-Caspian International Transport Route”

On behalf of the Association, we welcome and try to support a stronger and faster development of the logistics power of the Aktau Hub, as its success will obviously mean that a cargo from the EU has just passed through the TITR and has already brought value to its members along the route before the cargo will be further distributed in the directions to the south of Russia, China or Central Asian countries.

Here I would like to note that the Kazakhstan side would be glad to meet foreign investments in the region and especially warmly welcome the European ones. The whole range of favorable treatment for the investors may be discovered here starting from the priority sector of transport and logistics, for example cost-friendly warehousing of cargo produced and aimed for the CIS and Asian countries and to a new production facilities in full to open from where the goods produced may be subsequently sent to the world markets.

We wish for a fast further integration of the Middle Corridor into the global transport logistics system and international relations. Transit and transport potential of the countries of TITR will lead to the common synergy and the development of logistics systems in the formation of a new architecture of transcontinental corridors.

The whole trade between Kazakhstan and the EU for 2020 is 23,7 billion USD (including exports – 17.7 billion USD and imports – 6 billion USD). In total Kazakhstan exports about 160 million tons of various cargoes both to its nearby neighbors and to world markets, including about 85 million tons by rail and about 75 million tons by pipelines. So there is still a lot of potential for mutually beneficial partnership, we see with the use of the Black Sea maritime lines, Marmaray cargo tunnel and connection with the transport corridor system of Europe.

Applying to the European business society we wish to give a new impetus for an increase of business networking, disclosing the wide range of opportunities of Middle Corridor as the Trade and Transport Bridge of Europe and Asia, we are open for new offers and projects on our route, ready for the boost of trade relations between countries located to the east and west of the Caspian Sea.

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