Economy, Business And Markets

Caspian States Discuss Future Transport Projects

Finance Desk
Caspian States Discuss Future Transport Projects
Caspian States Discuss Future Transport Projects

Heads of transportation departments of the five Caspian littoral states clinched an agreement in Tehran on Wednesday to expand multilateral cooperation in key areas including maritime transport and port operations, transit corridors, railway development and aviation.  

Ministers and transportation officials from Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, convened in Tehran's International Laleh Hotel to finalize their negotiations. They released an official announcement after the talks, highlighting their commitment to a host of issues including improving infrastructure, promoting maritime security against natural disasters and terrorism and enhancing aviation safety and air travel.

The participants thanked Iran for organizing the meeting and accepted Kazakhstan's offer to host the next session in Astana.            

Abbas Akhundi, Iran’s minister of roads and urban development said in his opening remarks that despite efforts by the Caspian Sea states in the past, the infrastructure of the region remains undeveloped.

 “It is important to set up a comprehensive plan to develop transportation infrastructure and streamline operations,” he said.

“The Caspian littoral states with 22 million square meters of area, 256 million population, $600 billion worth of trade among each other, a GDP of $4 trillion and an average economic growth of 4.6% , can transform into a powerful alliance.”

Saying that transit had become all the more important in a global economy, Akhoundi said Iran, with 25 active  land transit borders , 5 railway borders, 13 commercial ports and 10 international airports had facilitated trade for  regional countries.

“Iran has updated its aviation rules according to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) so that the number of flights crossing Iranian airspace from East Asia to Europe has increased from 450 in June 2014 to 900 a day in recent days, “ he said.

 North-South Corridor

Akhundi announced plans to develop two new transport corridors on the eastern and western flanks of the Caspian Sea that will connect the littoral countries to Europe.  

“We intend to connect all roadways and railroads of the country to international corridors of the region,” he said, adding that Iran is already linked  to Asian freeways and railways.

He said materializing “combined transportation” between Iran and the Caspian states is important especially by connecting Iran’s southern ports to Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and from there to Europe.”

Iran, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan had come a long way to construct the railroad connecting the three neighbors and said that now is the time to remove physical and legal barriers for this strategic corridor.

The North-South corridor was established in 2000 by Iran, Russia and India in order to promote transportation cooperation among the members. Later Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine, Belarus, Oman, Syria and Bulgaria joined.

The total length of the International North-South Transport Corridor is 7,200 km. It aims to transport passengers and cargo from the India and the Persian Gulf to North and West Europe through Azerbaijan and Russia.

 Environment & Security

Addressing reporters later, Akhundi hoped that a legal status for transportation in the Caspian sea would be agreed soon.

“I see the will in all member states to come up with a legal framework” to embark on fair maritime activities in the Caspian Sea.

Responding to a question from the Financial Tribune about ways to protect the environment of the Caspian Sea, Russia’s Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said since Caspian Sea is a closed body of water, rules of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) do not apply to the sea.

“But the five littoral states can come up with regulations to reduce harm to the Caspian’s environment, for example by using double-hulled oil tankers to minimize oil spills into the sea,” he said.  

He suggested that other countries utilize Russia’s experience in this regard to protect the endangered Caspian Sturgeon.    

The legal status of the sea is still a matter of discussion between the littoral states. While Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Russia have already agreed on the delimitation of the sea in 2000, the other littoral states -Turkmenistan and Iran- have yet not reached a consensus.