Director-General of Port of Baku: containerisation is gaining momentum
In an interview with IntermodalNews, the Director-General of the Port of Baku, Taleh Ziyadov, talks about the results of 2020, the impact of the pandemic and the growing containerisation.
For many logistics companies, 2020 was a challenging year. What was it like for the Port of Baku?
In my opinion, the past year was interesting. On the one hand, we, like many ports in the world, faced with an unexpected and serious challenge in the form of a pandemic. On the other hand, this challenge forced us to look for extraordinary solutions.
Naturally, we did not expect this, but we reacted quickly. We began to take anti-epidemiological measures in February 2020. We paid special attention to the truck drivers who were on their way to the Central Asian countries via our port.
How was this expressed?
Before entering the port, we created a special quarantine zone, where, among other things, truck drivers were tested. We also divided the port area into several zones to minimise contacts between workers from different terminals. Additionally, a so-called “sterile zone” was created inside the port, which could only be accessed after testing.
It was a very efficient system, which we then introduced on the border between Azerbaijan and Georgia, and our colleagues from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan also adopted it. I think this solution can be called one of the most successful that we implemented last year.
What results did these measures bring? Did you manage to maintain cargo turnover?
We managed not only to maintain but also to increase the figures. At the end of last year, we handled about 4.8 million tons of cargo. The dynamics is +20 per cent. Also, we recorded the largest flow of containers and trucks in the entire history of the port: more than 43,000 trucks and more than 40,000 TEU containers.
If we compare the 2020 results with the volumes from five years ago, the truck traffic has grown five times, the volume of container transhipment increased three times and the volume of general freight increased almost 3.5 times. This is very big growth. We expect that the volume of cargo handled at our port will continue to grow.
What is the structure of the port’s cargo turnover?
The lion’s share of the cargo traffic in our port, or 87 per cent, is transit. Freight mostly runs in the “west-east” direction. If we talk about trucks, around 65 per cent of them go to the Port of Turkmenbashi, the remaining 35 per cent – to the Kazakh ports of Kuryk and Aktau. However, this does not mean that truck traffic is limited to these countries only. For example, trucks going to Uzbekistan very often use the ferry link in the Kazakhstan direction.
And what about the containers?
The main flow of containers that are transhipped at the Port of Baku is for Central Asia. As for China, this country accounts for about 15 per cent of container turnover, that is, about 6,000 TEU of containers. Currently, most of the containers from China to Europe go through Kazakhstan and Russia, but we expect that China’s share in our route will grow in the coming years. This is facilitated by the growing activity of the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route and the opening of the Baku – Tbilisi – Kars railway line, as well as the inauguration by Turkey of a tunnel under the Bosporus Strait for the freight train traffic.
I would like to note one more very important point about containers. Historically, open wagons and tank wagons were mainly used for the transportation of goods in the Soviet Union. In those days, containers were not the most important means for delivering goods. The development of containerisation in our port began relatively recently. And every year we see the growing popularity of container shipping. I think that this trend will develop even more intensively in the future. Moreover, it is planned to change the approach to port management in the future.
Now the port of Baku is completely state-owned and all terminals are operated by the state-owned company – Baku International Sea Trade Port CJSC. This will change in the future. In five years, we want each of the port terminals to be managed by companies that are engaged in specific activities in a particular industry and who will be interested in the development of these terminals. For example, for our Ro-Ro terminal to be operated by a company that has experience in this business and will be able to attract additional cargo. Likewise with the container terminal and the terminal for general cargo.
The second part of the interview will be published next week.