A PLACE ON THE SEA

Azerbaijan 2012 | TRANSPORT | FOCUS: BAKU'S NEW PORT

Baku's already thriving port is moving to a new location at the junction of the East-West and North-South transport corridors. Ready in 2014, the port is set to transform Baku's maritime logistics business.

In 2010, work began to move Baku International Sea Trade Port 40 kilometers south of Baku to Alat, an area chosen for its connectivity to major national and international transit routes. Upon completion of phase one in 2014, Baku's cargo capacity will increase substantially.

The port is set to be a key stop on the Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia (TRACECA), forming the maritime link to the Alat area, where the Azerbaijani rail and road networks intertwine. Phase I is estimated to cost $726 million, while work began in 2010 and is set for completion in 2014.

The current Baku International Sea Trade Port, although having undergone expansion, has been unable to keep up with Azerbaijan's economic development. “The current works will open new opportunities, but currently, due to the non-availability of infrastructure, we are limited in our maritime operations," Junaid Ahmed, General Manager of Globalink, told TBY. The present facilitates have a capacity of 15,000 TEUs a year. The new facilities are set to dwarf the old, as 10 million tons of goods and 40,000 TEUs annually are expected to be shipped through the port when the first phase goes into operation in 2014, with the second phase upping the volume to 17 million tons and 150,000 TEUs, while the third and final stage, expected to be completed in 2016, will boost capacity to 21 million-25 million tons and 1 million TEUs. The facilities will cover over 400 hectares, 100 of which will be occupied by an international logistics center, and contain eight cargo bridges for Ro-Ro and dry-cargo vessels, and two ferry terminals. It will also feature a rail ferry system, allowing ships carrying trains to disembark at Baku; a key part of the TRACECA project's goal is to facilitate the transport of Chinese goods to Europe by rail.

The dredging portion of the project is being carried out by Dutch Van Oord, which announced the signing of an €80-million contract in 2011. It will dredge a navigation channel seven kilometers long and 160 meters wide, as well as a turning basin for the new port. It is estimated a total of 8.8 million cubic meters of material will be dredged and discharged.

“The expansion of Baku's port… will have a massive impact on the country's economy, and therefore, the logistics sector will definitely grow in importance," Nadjaf Melikov, General Manager of Formag Forwarding, told TBY. Exporters are keen to get their hands on the new port, as the Azerbaijani authorities also hope to claim a portion of the cargo China ships to Europe and the Middle East.