nCa Report – Elvira Kadyrova
Lapis Lazuli corridor: From political will to daily operationalization
Lapis Lazuli corridor is pinned to provide critical linkage for the access of “Made in Afghanistan” products to the external markets in Central Asia and Caucasus in low beam, and in Europe – in long-distance beam. However, the connectivity dream to be become true needs not only hard infrastructure, measured in roads, rail line and ferries, but soft infrastructure as well as in the form of right logistics, unified regulatory framework, digitalization and more.
Perhaps, this was key note of discussions, taking place during the panel sessions of the conference of Lapis-Lazuli member-countries in Avaza. Moreover, mentioned conditions are indispensable for any transport corridor to be marketable.
Lapis Lazuli Transit, Trade and Transport Route Agreement has been developed with a view to enhancing regional economic integration and trade-based connectivity between the countries of Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey.
The Corridor has two starting points in Afghanistan from dry ports of Aqina(in northern Faryab province) and Torghundi (in western Herat province) and continues to the port of Turkmenbashi in Turkmenistan, to Baku in Azerbaijan and further onward to Tbilisi, Georgian ports of Poti and Batumi; finally, the corridor connects to the cities of Kars and Istanbul, Turkey and entering EU. The corridor’s test run is planned for early December this year.
Actually, all necessary corridor links are in place. Turkmenistan has improved railway connections with Afghanistan via Serkhetabad-Torghundi and Imamnazar-Aqina routes. Recently, the Turkmen government instructed the ministry of railroad to launch the electrification of the country’s rail network.
In May 2018, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan simultaneously commissioned the upgraded ports in Baku and Turkmenbashi. And Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway gives access to the Turkey’s transport system.
Soft and hard infrastructure are interconnected things and huge investments, spent for the construction of rail lines, highways, port terminals, purchase of sophisticated technologies, can turn into dividend-paying inputs, when the traders, consignors and shipping companies use the corridor and prefer it to others, because the corridor, for example, provides discounting or flexible rates, one-window services, visa reliefs, pre-arrival notification and etc.
During his remarks at opening session of the conference, the first deputy prime-minister of Azerbaijan Yagub Eyubov listed a number of areas that need to be elaborated for successful operation of the Lapis Lazuli route:
- Harmonization of competitive transit fees for attraction of cargoes, including via ports of Batumi and Poti and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway.
- Financial issues need to be resolved between logistics and transport companies, tariffs on port services should be agreed.
- Introduction of discounts for some kinds of cargo.
- Enhancing technical safety of transportations.
- Creation of conditions for storage of containers
- Speedy introduction of visa simplifications for participants international trucking activities;
- Integration of e-ticketing for passengers and carriers in ports of Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.
- Introduction of advance informing system.
Some steps, showing strong political will, had been already done on the top level with the striking a package of transport deals between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan in Ashgabat after a summit talks a week ago.
Anyway, the daily routine of a lengthy chain – from carrier agents up to drivers of tracks and dockers – elbows transport corridor through tough market competition. Therefore, the better coordination between transport authorities lightens the work of all chain branches and eventually, contributes to the effectiveness of the cargo flows. The Lapis Lazuli corridor falls under the same rule. /// nCa, 30 November 2018
To be continued . . .