Turkmenistan and Russia are actively fostering transport cooperation, both in the field of infrastructure, as well as within major regional transport connectivity projects.
Creation of a Transport commission
One of the steps in this direction was the formation of a joint Turkmen-Russian commission on transport, transit and logistics, which was announced during a Cabinet meeting in Ashgabat on Friday, 2 December.
The Commission will be established in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding between the Agency of Transport and Communications under the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan and the Ministry of Transport of Russia in order to increase bilateral and transit traffic, logistics development and efficient use of transport potential.
Commenting on the decision to set up a new commission, President Serdar Berdimuhamedov stressed the strategic importance of transport routes connecting the two countries and noted the urgency of implementing joint large-scale infrastructure projects.
Lapis Lazuli Corridor and Caspian connectivity
Probably, the need to create a new bilateral mechanism focused on transport partnership is also dictated by the fact that Russia is making vigorous efforts both to promote its own projects (the international North-South corridor) and to connect to projects initiated by Ashgabat.
As the trade representative of the Russian Federation in Turkmenistan Alexander Yelizarov recently said in an interview with TASS, Russian ports on the Caspian Sea plan to join the Lapis Lazuli transport Corridor.
“There is an east-west route through Turkmenistan, it is called the “Lapis Lazuli Corridor”: Afghanistan – Turkmenistan – Azerbaijan – Georgia-Turkiye. Through this corridor, cargo goes through the territory of Turkmenistan to the port in the city of Turkmenbashi directly to Baku and in the reverse direction. For three or four years, the Trade Mission has been working to connect the Russian ports of the Caspian Sea to this route: Makhachkala, Astrakhan and in the future Logan (Kalmykia, it is planned to build a port there – TASS),” he told.
Yelizarov also shared on prospects for the development of “Northern Lapis Lazuli” corridor. Geographically, this route spans through the international port of Turkmenbashi, the western coast of the Caspian Sea, the European part of Russia and Europe.
“According to professionals in the transport and logistics sector, cargo routes in this direction are already in demand and will develop in the future, because through the Suez Canal and beyond, security is not always maintained there, and it is lengthier and more expensive,” the trade representative explained.
It is obvious that Russia is striving to grasp the emerging opportunities in the Caspian connectivity, and thereby stimulate the development of its own port capacities in the face of growing competition among the ports of the Caspian countries and the Caspian corridors.
For example, there are three Russian ports on the Caspian Sea – Astrakhan, Olya and Makhachkala. Their total capacity is 19 million tons, and they operate at 28-30% of their potential. At the same time, the capacity of only one international seaport of Turkmenbashi is 17 million tons of cargo (without petroleum products) and 10 million tons of bulk cargo.
Modernization of railways in Turkmenistan
Another promising area of cooperation between Russia and Turkmenistan in the transport sector is the electrification of railways.
“Turkmenistan has a huge transit potential, and with the growth of cargo flows, of course, modernization of the existing and construction of a new track facilities, the construction of warehouse infrastructure, including indoor, refrigerating rooms, is needed. All this needs to be developed – there are large prospects for our companies, and first of all Russian Railways,” Yelizarov, Russia’s trade representative in Turkmenistan, told TASS.
According to him, a delegation of Russian Railways is expected to arrive in Turkmenistan in the near future. They will assess the scale of the necessary modernization and the capacity of the railway system of Turkmenistan.
“The main trend now is a moving away from the use of hydrocarbon fuel on the railway, in the Russian Federation almost all railway lines are electrified. There is no electrification here in the country now, and this is the future,” he added.
According to one of the recent reports of the Eurasian Development Bank, the electrification and modernization of the railway network in Turkmenistan is among the priority investment projects, the implementation of which will significantly increase the capacity of the INSTC (North-South corridor).
250 km long Turkmenabat-Mary rail line is a branch of the INSTC connecting Iran and Uzbekistan through Turkmenistan. Electrification and modernization of the Turkmenabat-Mary railway is the first stage of the project, and the second and third stages envisages upgrade of the Mary-Ashgabat and Ashgabat-Turkmenbashi sections. ADB provides assistance in the preparation of the feasibility study for the project.
Transport equipment and industrial cooperation
In mid-November, five freight locomotives from the Russian manufacturer Transmashholding arrived in Turkmenistan. The next contract is being worked out now.
Another area of Turkmen-Russian cooperation in expanding the transport fleet is shipbuilding.
“An important area of cooperation between our countries in the field of shipbuilding is the joint construction of technical vessels, such as dredgers. We are working on this, because the demand is great – the water management complex is developing in Turkmenistan. We are helping to develop the technical base of the country’s water management complex on a mutually beneficial basis,” Yelizarov said.
These vessels in Turkmenistan are used for dredging in the port of Turkmenbashi and for maintaining the water channels and the Karakum River in proper condition.
Speaking about the partnership in the field of shipbuilding, the trade representative noted that over the past four years, the deals have been inked between major Russian shipbuilding companies and the Balkan shipyard.
He expressed confidence that the countries will start implementing specific projects in the near future. ///nCa, 4 December 2022