Today, 21st Century technologies have changed the landscape of transport, logistics and cargo shipping beyond recognition. Once again, however, Azerbaijan is at the forefront of transport infrastructure across the wider region, with investment in major projects to futureproof the country’s exporting potential.
Since 2000, Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, has been home to the Permanent Secretariat of the ICG TRACECA (Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia) an international intergovernmental commission to strengthen economic relations, trade and transport links between the European Union and 12 member states of the Eastern European, Caucasus and Central Asian region.
Originally funded by the European Commission, the project has been entirely financed by member countries since 2009. TRACECA has working groups covering maritime transport, aviation, road and rail, transport security, and transport infrastructure.
All roads lead to Azerbaijan
According to the State Statistical Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the country transported 188.6 million tonnes of goods in 2020. Excluding oil and gas pipelines, road transport accounted for 84.1% of goods transported, followed by rail, sea and air transport.
Azerbaijan has made major investments to strengthen all elements of its transportation infrastructure in recent years.
Given the importance of its road network to both domestic commerce and to international businesses looking to invest in and trade from Azerbaijan, the country has completed more than 50 major road construction and reconstruction projects in the past few years. Thousands of kilometres of road has been created or renovated, linking and opening up the villages, towns and cities of Azerbaijan like never before. The country has also repaired or constructed more than 300 bridges and renewed all its main cross-border roads connecting the country with Georgia, Russia and Iran.
The historic Port of Baku has been a key location on European-to-Asia shipping routes since it opened in 1902, however, in recent times, a major upgrade of the port was required. As a result, the state-of-the-art new Baku International Sea Trade Port ferry terminal was opened at Alat, 40 miles south of Baku, in 2018.
Phase One of the new port comprises a ferry terminal, a general cargo berth, a Ro-Ro berth, a service berth, various administrative buildings, a customs holding area, an open storage yard, warehouses, a container yard, rail and road access to berths, a heavy lift landing area and a truck amenities area. As a result, the Port of Baku is now capable of serving 150 metre-long, 10,000 tonne capacity ferries and its cargo transportation capacity has been increased to 15 million tonnes and 500 000 containers (TEU) per year.
The three international rail routes into Azerbaijan all converge at Alat, making the Port of Baku a major transportation hub between the west (Turkey and the EU), south (Iran and India) and north (Russia and Northern Europe). All direct transit rail transhipments between Azerbaijan and Europe or Central Asia are conducted via the port’s ferry and general cargo terminals, where containers are transferred directly from ship to train and vice versa.
On track for success
First established in 1878, the railway system in Azerbaijan is the largest and busiest in the South Caucasus region, measuring over 2,900km of track. In recent years, Azerbaijan has backed major investment in its internal and international rail infrastructure.
The new Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, for example, connects Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey for energy and shipment transportation from China. The new line saves around 7,500km of travel for goods shipping between China and Europe, reducing shipment times significantly as well as reducing fuel consumption and the environmental impact of each journey.
Operation of the 829-kilometer (515-mile) railway line commenced in 2017, with the track now open to commercial freight. It is also expected to open to international passenger transportation in the future.
The sky’s the limit
Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku is the largest among the six international airports serving Azerbaijan.
As the airline industry recovers from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, the airport recently announced that 20 airlines are back and operating flights in Azerbaijan. In addition to the flag carrier Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL) and its low-cost subsidiary (Buta Airways), such major carriers as Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Aeroflot, S7, flyDubai, and a number of other carriers have resumed or are preparing to resume flights to the country.
The most popular routes for passengers in 2021 are flights from Russia (19 cities) and Turkey (7 cities), with direct flights to and from Germany, Ukraine, Belarus, the United Kingdom, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Israel all available from Azerbaijan. In addition to Baku, direct flights to Istanbul and Moscow are available from Nakhchivan, as well as flights to Istanbul, Moscow and St. Petersburg from Ganja Airport, and flights to Moscow and St. Petersburg from Lankaran Airport.
The country’s massive investment in transportation infrastructure in recent years means that, whether it’s by land, sea, rail or air, Azerbaijan is well-connected and open for business!