Turkic Council has placed a special emphasis on bolstering transport linkages among the Member States across the Trans-Caspian International East West Middle Transport Corridor (Trans-Caspian Corridor).
Motivated by the target of promoting comprehensive cooperation among its members, Turkic Council has from the outset placed a special emphasis on bolstering transport linkages among the Member States across the Trans-Caspian International East West Middle Transport Corridor (Trans-Caspian Corridor). Eradicating the existing obstacles to efficient, stable and seamless transport and establishing new mechanisms to streamline transport operations in all modes have constituted the basics of the cooperation in this area.
In light of this, three meetings of the Ministers of Transport, two meetings of the Coordination Council on Transport at deputy minister-level, seven working group meetings with senior experts of the relevant ministries of the Member States, an international workshop on Trans-Caspian Corridor, and two Sister Ports meeting among Baku, Aktau, Samsun and Kuryk ports with larger participation of representatives from all transport modes and customs authorities have been organized so far. In order to raise awareness on the national projects of the Member States along the Trans-Caspian Corridor, Turkic Council increased its cooperation and partnership with international organizations specialized on transport such as; UNECE-EATL, UNESCAP, TITR and OSJD, and attended various international conferences.
In this process, Ministers of Transport of the Member States signed the Turkic Council Joint Cooperation Protocol on the Development of Transport at the First meeting of the Ministers of Transport of the Turkic Council held in 2013. They also established a Coordination Council at deputy minister-level to address problems faced by the freight forwarders on the spot with practical solutions. Turkic Council Secretariat has steered the negotiations among the Member States on the draft Agreement between the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic and the Republic of Turkey on the International Combined Transport of Goods. Member States signed an MoU on the Sister Ports Relation and Cooperation among the Ports of Baku, Samsun and Aktau in 2013 to enhance cooperation. Kuryk Port of Kazakhstan will join the Sister Ports cooperation at the Fourth meeting of Ministers of Transport to be held in Kyrgyzstan in early 2019. Turkmenbashi port was also invited to the Turkic Council Sister Ports process. The relationship set by the MoU has streamlined exchange of technical visits and trade ties among the Ports as well as enhanced attempts for the creation of an integrated software system for the shipment of goods among the Ports. Turkic Council Secretariat in cooperation with the Ministry of Transport of Turkey organized a Workshop on Trans-Caspian Intermodal Route in 2016 in Istanbul with the participation of high level bureaucrats and experts as well as representatives of the private companies from the Member States. In the Outcome Paper of the workshop, which was submitted to the Ministers of Transport of the Member States on the following day in their third meeting, experts highlighted the importance of the corridor for the economic gains of our countries and stressed the corridor’s efficiency for East-West transport. Ministers also expressed their will to continue to work to render the corridor stable, competitive and sustainable, and underlined that Member States should exploit the true potential of the Turkic Council in order to activate the untapped capacity zipped in our geography.
Turkic Council has placed emphasis on its relations with the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR), an international association aimed at coordinating interaction among the countries along the Silk Road on transportation of goods and containers between Asia and Europe. Secretariat assisted the TITR in developing relations with relevant organizations of the Member States. With the efforts of the Secretariat, Turkey (TCDD) acceded to the TITR agreement in 2014. A transport delegation from Kazakhstan comprising officials from the International Association TITR, the Khorgos Gateway/Logistics Center, and the Kuryk Port met with the Turkish transport delegation composed of the representatives of the Ministry of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications of Turkey as well as the Turkish State Railways (TCDD) in November 2017 in Istanbul at the Secretariat of the Turkic Council. During the meeting, organized with the assistance of the Secretariat, Parties made evaluations on the prospective rail transportation across the Trans-Caspian Corridor and agreed that cooperation in the framework of the TITR, which also includes the Member States of the Turkic Council, should be enhanced in the light of the recent developments. Two separate Memoranda of Understanding were signed between the Khorgos Gateway/Logistics Center located on the Kazakhstan-China border along with the Kuryk Port located on the Caspian Sea and the International Freight Forwarders Association (UND) of Turkey in Istanbul at the Secretariat. Moreover, Turkic Council and TITR have joined hands to promote Trans-Caspian route at the Logitrans International Transport Logistics Exhibition annually organized in Istanbul.
In the light of the above-stated efforts as well as other regional developments that have increased the strategic importance of the Trans-Caspian Corridor, the last couple of years saw significant changes along the corridor. Logistical expenses, which have been the main impediments to the lucrative trade and enhanced economic relations among the Member States, went down due to decrease in the costs of transit passages and Caspian crossings. Institutional arrangements in some Member States for the coordination of transit freight were instrumental. Customs procedures in Caspian ports of the Member States have been streamlined due to Single Window system and port charges were reduced, making the transport operations faster and cheaper. Three years back, ferries operating between Baku and Aktau Ports were carrying around 500 tracks annually. This number increased by %1300 reaching approximately to 8000 trucks in 2016. Looked at overall, the shipment from Baku port to the ports of Aktau and Turkmenbashi has increased 3 fold with 23.500 TIR trucks as compared with pre-2016 period. Such figures clearly show that Trans-Caspian Corridor has become a true complementary route in Asia-Europe axis. The finalization of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway (BTK) and operationalization of the Road Transportation Agreement between Turkey and China further facilitated the cargo flow passing through the Trans-Caspian Corridor. Recently, the MoU aligning the Middle Corridor to the One Belt One Road (OBOR) Initiative was ratified by the Parliament of Turkey and became operational. The intensification of the preparations for China’s OBOR initiative and concomitant bilateral transport agreements inked with the enroot countries has added a great value to the efficiency of the corridor.
As in the previous Summits, at the 6th Turkic Council Summit held on 3 September 2018 in Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan, Presidents encouraged deeper cooperation among the relevant authorities of the Member States to render the Trans-Caspian Corridor an efficient, sustainable and seamless route between East and West. With this motivation, Turkic Council Secretariat will continue its efforts to enhance cooperation among the Member States in 2019. The Fourth meeting of the Ministers of Transport and the Eighth meeting of the Working Group on Transport will be convened in Kyrgyzstan. In addition, Secretariat started working for the organization of the Third Sister Ports meeting as well as an International Logistics Forum in Aktau. Secretariat will also continue to boost its cooperation with other international actors in the field of transport in the year 2019.