The ports on the Caspian and Black Sea could be connected with a new transport corridor which will run only through Russia. The new route will be an alternative connection to the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway that lies on the other side of the Caucasian mountain ridge – in Azerbaijan and Georgia.
“We offer an alternative connection that will be beneficial and convenient for international carriers of cargo as well as passengers. This route will be effective and short, transiting only via one country”, said Sergei Chebotarev, minister of North Caucasus Affairs at the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum on 6-8 June. According to him, the proposed route will not compete with existing routes.
Transit from China and India
Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development considers that the new route could be an important stimulus in attracting transit cargo from and to China and India as well as increasing the export volumes. The governmental body estimates that by 2025 all the Caspian countries (Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Azerbaijan) are able to earn 4 billion US Dollars by exporting non-energy and non-raw products.
To reach this figure, infrastructure investments are required, especially in port, rail and intermodal facilities. “The existing framework allows us to develop the economy of the whole region dynamically. But it requires huge investments that should be allocated in all countries of the Caspian region”, noted Azer Talibov, Deputy Minister of the Economic Development.
Chebotarev did not specify the exact route of the proposed corridor. It is most likely to connect the Caspian port of Makhachkala with the Black Sea counterpart of Novorossiysk running via Dagestan, Chechnya, Kabardino-Balkaria, Stavropol and Krasnodar Krai.
Makhachkala port is the single Russian non-frozen harbour on the Caspian Sea while Novorossiysk is the largest Russian seaport on the Black Sea. However, in order to attract transit from China, the new route also requires a ferry service to the Kazakh port of Aktau. This connection has been launched several times but has been cancelled due to low traffic.