Silk Road: New Cooperation Opportunities

The paper is focused on the most pressing issues concerning the transportation corridors in Eurasia. Historically, the caravan trade route known as the Great Silk Road stretched through the territory of Kazakhstan. It had great impact on the development of Eurasia in the past. Today, the necessity for a transport network from Asia to Europe is increasingly apparent. Provided such a network is built and functions, what may be its impact on Kazakhstan?

Kazakhstan, being a landlocked country in the center of the Eurasian continent, is aware of the necessity to revive the historic routes through its territory that used to connect it with the world. Kazakhstan finds itself between the two major poles of the world trade. The country’s leadership has emphasized numerously that the enhancement of its transit capacity is crucially important.

The Eurasian continent is becoming notably busier. According to expert estimates, the trade volume in the region will increase from $800 billion in 2014 to $1.2 trillion in 2020. At the same time, the trade between China and the EU members will grow from $615 billion to $800 billion. The volume of freight traffic will increase from 117 million to 170 million tones, 98% of which will be transported by sea.

Kazakhstan has set the goal to enhance the transit capacities; 10 million tones of the freight traffic between China and Europe shall go through Kazakhstan’s territory by 2020. This requires construction of a well-developed transport and logistics infrastructure and its integration into the international transport system. President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan articulated his strategy of how to enhance the transit potential of Kazakhstan in the Nurly Zhol – Towards the Future National Program in November 2014. The program stipulates for a fundamentally new approach that shall ensure successful development of the infrastructure in Kazakhstan.

The JSC National Company Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (JSC "NC" KTZ) is actively participating into the realization of the Nurly Zhol strategy. Currently, it is implementing the development program that shall allocate the $36.3 billion in total investment until 2020. A series of the projects realized within the framework of the program shall help to improve the infrastructure that is currently underdeveloped and enhance considerably the quality of the professionals employed there so that the competitiveness of Kazakhstan’s service would grow as well as the volumes of the freight flow.

Some practical measures have already been taken in this direction. For example, in order to increase the transport and transit capacities of the land corridors, Kazakhstan and China have built the railway and logistics infrastructure on the two border crossings with the turnover over 40 million tones per year.

The existing configuration of the continental transport and infrastructure is evolving. The volume of trade among China, Russia, the Gulf States and the European Union is growing. Provided Kazakhstan is able to participate on the equal footing, the entire architecture of transcontinental transport corridors shall change as well.

The JSC "NC" KTZ contributes into the efforts to achieve the goal above. In 2014, it put into operation the following new railways: the 988 km-long Zhezkazgan-Beineu, the 214 kme-long Arkalyk-Shubarkol, and the Uzen- Bolasha-Bereket-Gorgan that stretches for 928 kilometers. The new railway network makes the freight routes in the North-South and the East-West directions 1,000 kilometers shorter. The apparent impact of these railways is that the transportation costs are to reduce from 10% to 30% and the delivery time is to decrease from one to three days. The transit capacity of Kazakhstan, therefore, is to enhance considerably.

The establishment of the Coordination Committee for the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR), with the participation of railway and shipping companies of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey in February 2014 was a significant move for the development of the international transport route. The goal is to increase the attractiveness of the route trough the elimination of physical and non-physical barriers and conducting coordinated policies to introduce the competitive tariffs.

Today, facing new challenges, JSC "NC" KTZ is pursuing a policy of the transformation of its business model aimed at adapting to the current conditions of the market. The Company’s focus is moving from exclusively railway transportation to providing of the full range of transport and logistics services. The reform is aimed at integrating the sea, air and road transport pool as well as port, airport infrastructure and the network of terminals into a single system operating on the basis of the one-window principle. All these shall contribute into creating of the conditions favorable for realization of the export and transit potential of Kazakhstan. Our strategy provides for having a domestic and international transport and logistics network in the locations where consolidation and distribution of freight flows is the most intensive.

There have been a number of achievements in the filed. Kazakhstan has built the logistics terminal in the port of Lianyungang to service the freight flows from Southeast Asia towards the countries of Central Asia, Europe and the Gulf. During 2014, the volume of the export and transit of container traffic through the terminal in the Lianyungang port was about 70,000 t TEU and by the end of 2015 it is expected to exceed 250,000 and TEU with the further two-fold increase by 2020.

Additionally, the projects are being considered to build the logistics terminals in the Baltic Sea, namely the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda and in the Persian Gulf, namely the Iranian port Bandar Abbas. The network, provided the projects are successfully implemented, will link the hubs and provide Kazakhstan with the access to the World Ocean.

The ports of Lianyungang and Aktau together with the KTZE-Khorgos GateWay are the integral parts of a single supporting logistics system for transportation and distribution of the freight flows through Central Asia. The DP World - a major international port infrastructure operator – has been brought in to improve the effectiveness of the management of the KTZE-Khorgos GateWay and the port of Aktau.

The JSC National Company Kazakhstan Temir Zholy pays great attention to the TransCaspian direction. In 2013, a shipping company was opened that is currently carrying out all the transportation on the Caspian Sea. The sea brunch of the Kazakhstan’s transport infrastructure is constantly growing: by 2020, the number of vessels shall exceed twenty. The Aktau port is important for the Caspian region: it provides 25% of all the transportation in the Caspian Sea. In 2014 the volume amounted to 10.3 million tons. In 2015, JSC "NC" KTZ will finish the expansion works in the Aktau port:

a grain terminal with capacity of 1.5 million tones and two additional universal terminals with a total capacity of 1.5 million tons are being constructed. The estimated outcome is 21 million-ton increase of the port turnover per year. The launch of the ferry connection in the port of Kuryk is to increase the ferry cargo capacity of Kazakhstan by three times.

Dry Port KTZE-Khorgos GateWay is one of the major part of the logistic network of modern Kazakhstan. In December 2014, President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan opened it via live link-up from Astana. The planned volume of the cargo handling is to reach 4.4 million tons in 2020. The entire Khorgos project is aimed at enhancement of the infrastructure to boost export and attract additional transit freight flows.

The strategic program also stipulates for construction of transport and logistic centers (TLC) in the major cities throughout Kazakhstan that will enable to meet the need for additional warehouses and to enhance consolidation and distribution of freight flows. The network will also include some regions of the neighboring countries. The construction of TLCs in Astana and Shymkent is to be completed this year.

One of the most apparent trends these days is the shift from sea to rail means of transportation of the export-import and cargo transit. The JSC National Company Kazakhstan Temir Zholy is actively cooperating with the major railway companies operating in such provinces of China as Lianyungang, Chongqing, Xi'an, Shenzhen with the main purpose to draw the bulk of cargo transit between China, Europe and the Central Asian to the territory of Kazakhstan. The result of this collaboration is the launch of the regular container trains between China and Europe that led to the more than three-fold increase of the volume of traffic through Kazakhstan. In 2014, the 226 trains carried the cargo that amounted to 21,192 TEU. This year, the trend continued: in the first quarter of 2015, 52 container trains transported 4,386 TEU. This is 2.5 times more than in the same period of 2014 when the figures were 1,716 TEU and 18 trains respectively.

The container train China-Kazakhstan-Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey is also to be launched in this year. The project is being implemented within TITR so that the participating countries would work out a single complex rate and a unified approach to the container trains operation in order to increase the competitiveness of this particular route of transportation.

To sum up, by 2020, the full implementation of the measures aimed at development of the transport and logistics capacities of Kazakhstan will enable to increase twice (from 18 to 36 million tons) the total volume of the transit through Kazakhstan via such routs as the China-Europe, China-Central- Asia-Southern Caucasus;-Turkey, and the Central Asia-Russia-Europe. As for the transit revenues, the estimated growth is threefold from $1 to 3.1 billion. All these will make Kazakhstan an active participant into the global economic processes. Even now, Kazakhstan contributes a lot into development of the transport corridors in Eurasia. Provided its full inclusion into global infrastructure, the transit capacities of Kazakhstan must be considerably increased with the apparent positive impact on the entire economy of the country.

Year: 2015
City: Almaty