Transport sector gets boosted
The transport sector has a direct impact on the development of other sectors of the economy, contributes to the growth of tourism opportunities. Thus, the Azerbaijani government pays great attention to this area, aiming to become the key link in any transport and logistics projects of regional and international importance.
Large-scale works on the improvement of roads of international and republican importance with the use of modern technologies are ongoing in Azerbaijan. In the field of road transport, work is underway to update the freight and passenger vehicle fleet, strengthen the position and technical equipment of national carriers, improve the methods of organizing international transportation, introduce digital tachographs and apply a “single window” system.At the same time, the modernization of the country's railway transport is underway.
The great importance of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway should be noted in this regard. Providing the shortest rail link between Europe and Asia, BTK plays an important role in the implementation of China's "One Belt, One Road" strategy and the International North-South Transport Corridor project.
In fact, the BTK railway route is the shortest way to deliver cargo from the Russian regions located in the Volga, Ural and Siberian Federal Districts to the Mediterranean ports of Turkey, and further to the countries of Africa and the Middle East.
At present, the BTK provides transportation from Kazakhstan to Mersin port. Some cargoes are delivered from Russia to Turkey and Europe.
The BTK railway has been constructed on the basis a Georgian-Azerbaijani-Turkish intergovernmental agreement. The project implementation began in 2007 and construction began in 2008. The line is intended to transport one million passengers and 6.5 million tons of cargo at the first stage. This capacity will then reach 3 million passengers and 17 million tons of cargo.
The main purpose of the project was to improve economic relations between the three countries and attract foreign direct investment by connecting Europe and Asia. The organization of passenger transportation on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars route is planned for the third quarter of 2019 as well.
Another important route is Lapis Lazuli transport corridor. Afghanistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia signed an agreement on the creation of the Lapis Lazuli transport corridor which is set to connect the five countries on November 15, 2017.
The first transit cargo arrived to the Baku International Sea Trade Port via the Lapis Lazuli international route on December 25. The Lapis-Lazuli route will allow the participating countries to diversify their access to regional and continental markets. This, in turn, will lead to the economic development of the countries lying along this corridor. Azerbaijan, for instance, will get huge benefits being a transit country.
The trans-regional corridor encompasses mainly railways and highways, which connect the city of Torghundi in the Afghan province of Herat with the port of Turkmenbashi on the shore of the Caspian Sea via Ashgabat.
From Turkmenbashi, goods travel further by ferry to Baku, where they are placed on train cars and continue westward to Europe across the South Caucasus via the newly launched Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. Further, the corridor passes through Tbilisi to Ankara with branches to Poti and Batumi, and, then, from Ankara to Istanbul.
Consultations on the creation of the transport corridor began back in 2012. The initiative seeks to improve transport infrastructure and procedures (including for road, rail, and sea), increase exports, and expand the economic opportunities of citizens in countries benefiting from this new transport corridor.
Barriers to regional trade and transit and transaction costs will be reduced, in part, through a new Custom Integration Procedure and, between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, a new Cross-Border Transport Agreement. Its projected impact is considerable not only because most of the needed infrastructure is already in place, but also because most of the investment required will focus on improving policy and governance.
The name ‘Lapis Lazuli’ is derived from the historic route that Afghanistan’s lapis lazuli and other semiprecious stones were exported along, over 2,000 years ago, to the Caucasus, Russia, the Balkans, Europe, and North Africa.
Azerbaijan is interested in the development both the "North-South" and "West-East" Transport Corridors. The country is a central territory in both cases.
TRACECA is an international cooperation program in the field of transport between the EU and partner countries in Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia.
The program was established at the Brussels conference on 3 May 1993 which was attended by the ministers of transport and trade of eight states -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia.
The Europe-Caucasus-Asia Transport Corridor (TRACECA) is involved in gradually developing trends of trade and economic development. Major traffic flows passing through a corridor formed on the one hand, in Western and Central Europe, and on the other in Central and South-East Asia.
Two very important international transport corridors pass through Azerbaijan - the international North-South corridor connecting India, Iran, Azerbaijan, North-West Russia and the Baltic sea region, as well as the transport corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia – TRACECA, which is a part of the new Silk Road and creates a strategic link between the Caspian and the Black seas.
In this regard, Azerbaijan has excellent prospects for the development of freight transport. The development of railway communication with Iran will strengthen the North-South corridor, and the recently opened Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway line will develop freight traffic in the East-West direction.
Work to update the navy is also carried out regularly. For the widespread use of multimodal transport in the Caspian region, to facilitate and increase the volume of maritime transport in general, new tankers and ferries are purchased.
Azerbaijan pins great hopes on the Baku International Sea Trade Port.This port is probably the most modern in the Caspian basin.
The port, construction of which began in 2007, is expected to become one of the leading trade and logistics hubs of Eurasia. President Ilham Aliyev laid the foundation stone for the new port on November 3, 2010.
The implementation of all three phases of construction is projected to increase the capacity up to 7,660 tons on a daily basis.
Port of Baku will trade & become the major centre for consolidation, concentration and distribution, providing a wide range of value-added services in the region to the markets of the South Caucasus, Central Asia, Iran, southern Russia and Turkey.
Also, the creation of the Free Trade Zone (FTZ) that will ensure a wider transit and transport potential of the country is envisaged on the territory of the port.
Azerbaijani national secretary in TRACECA, expert in the field of transport and logistics Akif Mustafayev tol Trend that Azerbaijan is indeed turning into an international transport and logistics hub.
The expert noted that Azerbaijan has become a key country in the region.
“It is impossible to imagine the implementation of any projects in the region without the Azerbaijan’s participation,” he said.
Mustafayev added that in order to make more cargo pass through the territory of Azerbaijan, tariffs should be attractive.
“We also need to simplify customs procedures and pay attention to digital technologies so that all documentation comes electronically. The Customs Committee is working on this,” the expert said.
Mustafayev recalled that in 2019 the cargo will pass through the “Green Corridor” - that is, without stopping. “And if there are stops, they will be short-term. Trucks of those organizations and structures that have already won confidence will pass through the “Green Corridor”. The Customs Committee is already negotiating with such organizations,” Mustafayev explained.
On May 21, 2016 the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed order on using the Rules of “Green Corridor” and other release systems for conveyance of the goods and means of transport across the customs border.
According to the amendments to the Customs Code of Azerbaijan, introduced in line with President Ilham Aliyev’s decree, dated November 30, 2016, in order to simplify the customs registration of goods and vehicles passing through customs border crossing points, green, blue, yellow and red systems can be used on the basis of a short import declaration.
“Green corridor” constitutes immediate release of goods without examination based on the customs control and the risk assessment conducted in accordance with the short import declaration which is submitted in electronic form in advance. The main goal is to reduce the interaction of citizens with officials.