China creates new communications: Silk Wind project to be non-political

China creates new communications: Silk Wind project to be non-political

Beijing, Astana, Baku, Tbilisi and Ankara have established a consortium for cargo transportation from China to Europe in the framework of the transnational project Silk Wind. The corresponding agreement was signed yesterday in Istanbul. It is assumed that Chinese goods will be delivered to the port of Aktau by rail and then by ferry to Baku, then by rail to the Georgian ports, and by ferry to the Turkish and Ukrainian ports. In this final case, Silk Wind may be combined with the Lithuanian-Ukrainian transport corridor Viking.

The signed document states that the agreement was reached during the presentation of prospects for the Trans-Caspian transport route 'China-Turkey-Europe'. Chinese Minsheng Logistics, Kazakh KTZ Express [a subsidiary of Kazakhstan's national railway company], Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping, Azerbaijan’s Karvan Logistics company and Georgian Trans Caucasus Terminals [a subsidiary of Georgia's national railway company] expressed readiness to become the founders of the consortium. Turkey is represented in the consortium as an associated member.

In 2016, within the framework of this project it is planned to transfer the first few thousand containers from China to Turkey and Europe through the territory of Georgia. This trend will become more attractive after the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is completed. Especially since the first railway tunnel under the Bosphorus 'Marmara' was opened at the end of 2013. Baku, Tbilisi, Ankara and Astana need to introduce a single tariff for the transportation of goods within the Silk Wind project and on measures to simplify customs clearance procedures of the trains. If these two routes will be able to connect, the total length of the route will be 4192 km with an estimated transit time of 12 days. The Silk Wind project would be the shortest route for the delivery of the international cargo from the western borders of China to the EU. In 2017 shipping will be started via Ukraine to Northern and Eastern Europe.

The head of the club of political scientists 'South Caucasus', Ilgar Velizde, told Vestnik Kavkaza that it is about implementation of a modified version of the Silk Wind project. The memorandum on the principles of joint ventures for the development of the transport network and the transportation of goods by the Silk Wind multimodal block trains was signed in 2012 at the initiative of Kazakhstan. "The purpose of the Silk Wind project is establishment of a multimodal route for trains (using containers/ro-ro) with preliminary exchange of information between the customs authorities and railway operators of the participating countries. Countries participating in the project plan to introduce a single tariff for transportation of cargo within its framework. When the first train was tested in August, it was decided to formalize the already existing cooperation between structures and create a consortium. There are no insidious plans that have arrived just in time for the crisis in relations between Turkey and Russia," Velizade said.

However, Beijing does not stop and continues to work on a new project of a bridge from Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan across the Caspian Sea. The development of the grandiose construction could be started soon, the Kazakh TV channel Almaty's 'Business Time' program reports.

It is noted that currently the land route has 100 times less capacity of goods from China to the EU than the sea route. Even Russia receives most Chinese cargo by sea via Finland. At the same time, China's major logistics investment is directed at the Myanmar corridor – which is almost 100 times more than it is ready to invest in the Silk Road.