To Europe via Iran
Azerbaijan is planning an alternative transit route, aiming to carry westbound goods from India or Persian Gulf states. The itinerary will pass through Azerbaijan’s southern neighbour Iran and then cross Azerbaijan and the Black Sea before heading for Europe.
At the end of September ADY Express, a subsidiary of Azerbaijan Railways that provides logistics services for various customers, announced the launch of a freight transport option towards Europe that has been designed specifically to improve the country’s transit role.
The firm will first carry out a test run, which will see four cargo wagons depart from Iran bound for Azerbaijan. Two containers carrying approximately 90 t of light oil distillate will be loaded at Astara railway station on the Azeri / Iranian border, and hauled to the western Georgian port of Batumi on the Black Sea. From there the journey will continue towards Europe.
Shift goods to a faster route
ADY Express believes that this will create a new transport route from India to Europe that covers the Persian Gulf, Iran, Azerbaijan itself, Georgia and the Black Sea region. It could prove to be invaluable to the country as a transit alternative. The freight experts are aiming at an initial capacity for the route of approximately 10,000 t of cargo per year, with the possibility to increase volumes later.
Approximately 94% of all cargo traffic between India, Iran, the Persian Gulf states and Europe is currently carried by sea, according to ADY Express. Typically, a route through the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean and the Baltic Sea is chosen, the company says.
Thus a new southwestern route is attractive for goods transportation, according to the rail subsidiary, as it can reduce the distances covered and delivery times two or three-fold, compared to other routes. The conventional sea route provides cargo transportation in 35 to 37 days.
Now ADY Express has calculated the potential savings it can offer. Transport between the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas and Georgia’s Poti and Batumi gateways will take approximately seven days; from the port of Mumbai to Georgia it will take around 14 days. On-forwarding from Georgia to Europe has to be added to these estimates.
An ADY office in Iran
At the beginning of October Azerbaijan Railways (ADY) announced that it will soon be opening an office in neighbouring Iran, in order to realise its latest plans.
The background to this move includes efforts by the country to seek funding for the planned construction of the Rasht–Astara railway line, which runs through one of the key areas of the western branch of the new north–south transport corridor.
In the meantime Azerbaijani Railways chairman Javid Gurbanov has stated that work is underway on the construction of a bridge across the river Astaraçay, running through the twin Astara cities, one on either side of the Azeri / Iranian border. Gurbanov said that he expects the Iranian side to complete its planning process soon, and that construction companies will then be able to start with their work in mid-November. Only once this building work has started will the two parties start to search for sources of joint funding and commence with the construction of the Rasht–Astara section of the railway line.
Azerbaijan has promised to support Iran financially in the forthcoming building project by providing a loan worth up to USD 500 million.