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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.

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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.

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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.

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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Kazakhstan

Commentary from Benedikt Sobotka, Honorary Consul of Kazakhstan in Luxembourg, on President Tokayev's State of the Nation Address

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“We are encouraged to see a wide range of policies that will set the tone for Kazakhstan’s transformation in the years ahead, and by the country’s clear ambition to reach carbon neutrality by 2060. Progress in developing the country’s net zero goals has been impressive – Kazakhstan was the first country in Central Asia to establish a national Emissions Trading Scheme to put a price on carbon. Earlier this year, the country also adopted a new Environmental Code to accelerate the shift to sustainable practices.  

"A key enabler of Kazakhstan’s transition to net zero over the next decades will be digitalization. We welcome Kazakhstan’s efforts to place digital growth at the heart of the country’s vision for the future. Over the years, Kazakhstan has taken digital transformation to a new level, investing heavily in new ‘smart city’ technologies to improve and automate city services and urban life. The country has succeeded in establishing an innovative digital ecosystem in Central Asia that has been reinforced by the creation of the Astana International Financial Centre and the Astana Hub, home to several hundreds of tech companies that enjoy preferential tax status. 

"Underlying this technological transformation has been Kazakhstan’s commitment to digital learning solutions, designed to catalyse over 100,000 IT specialists to develop technical skills that are integral to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The shift to digital learning opportunities has also been reflected in Kazakhstan’s approach to education – with plans to create 1000 new schools, the country’s commitment to upskilling youth will be key to creating an inclusive and sustainable economy of the future.”

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Kazakhstan collects 5 medals at 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

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Kazakhstan collected five medals - one gold, three silver and one bronze - at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Paralympic Games in Japan, Kazinform has learnt from the official website of the event. Kazakhstan para-powerlifter David Degtyarev lifted Kazakhstan to its only gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.

Kazakhstan hauled all three silver medals in judo as Anuar Sariyev, Temirzhan Daulet and Zarina Baibatina all clinched silver in Men’s -60kg, Men’s -73kg and Women’s +70kg weight categories, respectively. Kazakhstani para-swimmer Nurdaulet Zhumagali settled for bronze in Men’s 100m Breaststroke event. Team Kazakhstan is ranked 52nd in the overall medal tally of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics together with Finland. China tops the medal standing with 207 medals, including 96 gold, 60 silver and 51 bronze. Ranked second is Great Britain with 124 medals. The US is third with 104 medals.

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Zhambyl Zhabayev’s 175th anniversary: A poet who outlived his (almost) 100 years of physical life

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Zhambyl Zhabayev. Photo credit: Bilimdinews.kz.
Zhambyl Zhabayev (pictured) is not just a great Kazakh poet, he became almost a mythical figure, uniting very different epochs. Even his life span is unique: born in 1846  he died on June 22, 1945 – weeks after the defeat of Nazism in Germany. He had only eight months more to live to celebrate his 100th birthday, his centenary, writes Dmitry Babich in Kazakhstan’s Independence: 30 Years, Op-Ed.  

Now we are celebrating his 175th birthday.

Zhambyl, who was born just four years after the death of Mikhail Lermontov and nine years after the death of Alexander Pushkin – the two great Russian poets. To feel the distance, it is enough to say that their images were brought to us only by painters – photography did not exist at the time of their early deaths in bloody duels. Zhambyl breathed the same air with them…

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But Zhambyl  is also the indispensable memory of our fathers’ childhood, the evergreen “grandfatherly figure”, who seemed so close, so “one of us” not only thanks to numerous photos in newspapers. But most of all – thanks to his  beautiful, but also easily understandable verses about Kazakhstan, its nature, its people. But not only about the motherland – singing from Kazakhstan’s heartland, Zhambyl found a way to respond to the tragedy of World War II, Leningrad’s blockade, and many, many other tectonic “shifts of history” that took place in his lifetime.

The living room of the Zhambyl Zhabayev’s museum, which is located 70 km from Almaty where the poet lived in 1938-1945. Photo credit: Yvision.kz.

Could someone link these two worlds – Kazakhstan before its “Tsarist period”, the times of Pushkin and Lermontov, – and our generation, which saw the end of the Soviet Union and the success of independent Kazakhstan?

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There is only one such figure – Zhambyl.

It is amazing that his world fame came to him around 1936, at the moment when he was 90. “You are never too old to learn” – this is a reassuring statement. But “you are never too old for fame” is an even more reassuring one. Zhambyl got famous in 1936, when a Kazakh poet Abdilda Tazhibayev proposed Zhambyl for the position of the “wise old man“ of the Soviet Union (aksakal), a niche traditionally filled by the ageing poets from the Caucasus lands. Zhambyl immediately won the contest: he was not only older (his competitor from Dagestan, Suleiman Stalski, was 23 years younger), Zhambyl was certainly more colorful.  Raised near the old town of Taraz (later renamed after Zhambyl), Zhambyl had been playing dombura since the age of 14 and winning local poetic contests (aitys) since 1881. Zhambyl wore traditional Kazakh clothes and preferred to stick to the traditional protein-rich diet of the steppes, which allowed him live so long. But there was certainly something more to him – Zhambyl indeed was a poet.

A monument to Zhambyl Zhabayev in Almaty.

Critics (and some detractors) accuse Zhambyl of writing “political poetry,” of being blinded by the might (which was not always right) of the Soviet Union. There is some factual truth to that statement, but there is no aesthetic truth to it. Leopold Senghor, the legendary first president of independent Senegal, also wrote political verses, some of them about the “strength” and “might” of political “strongmen” of the 20th century. But Senghor wrote these verses sincerely – and he stayed in the history of literature. And Senghor stayed in history in a much more honorary position than the political strongmen, whom he admired.

For Zhambyl, the people of Leningrad, (now St.Petersburg) who sustained awful famine during the siege of their city by the Nazis in 1941-1944, – they were INDEED his children. In his verses, Zhambyl felt pain for every one of more than 1 million people starved to death in that majestic imperial city on the shores of the Baltic sea, whose palaces and bridges were so far away from him. For poetry, distances do not matter. It is the emotion that counts. And Zhambyl had a strong emotion. You can feel it reading his verses of a 95 years old man:

Leningraders, children of mine!

For you – apples, sweet as best wine,

For you – horses of the best breeds,

For your, fighters, most dire needs…

(Kazakhstan was famous for its apples and horse-breeding traditions.)

Leningraders, my love and pride!

Let my glance through mountains glide,

In the snow of rocky ridges

I can see your columns and bridges,

In the sound of spring torrent,

I can feel your pain, your torment…

(Verses translated by Dmitry Babich)

The famous Russian poet Boris Pasternak (1891-1960), whom Zhambyl could call a younger colleague, had huge respect for the kind of folk poetry that Zhambyl represented, wrote about this verses that “a poet can see events before they happen” and poetry reflects a “human condition” at its symbolic core.

This is certainly true of Zhambyl. His long life and work are a tale of human condition.  

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