Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR): Next Friday, a container train is due to be loaded on to a ferry in the Ukrainian port of Ilyichevsk destined for China via Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan in a test run of a new intermodal Silk Road route bypassing Russia by heading across the Black and Caspian Seas, Ukraine’s Ministry of Transport announced this week.
The initial concept of TITR dates back to 1993 when it was central to the TRACECA international cooperation program between the EU and countries in Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia. More recently, a decision to create a coordinating committee to develop the project was taken by government representatives from Kazakhstan, Georgia and Azerbaijan in late 2013 and was first presented to Ukraine freight carriers last November at a conference in Odessa.
“This route is a new leg of the Silk Road ….. bypassing Russian territory,” a ministry spokesperson said. “It includes ferry crossings…from Ilyichevsk to Batumi [across the Black Sea] and from Alat to Aktau [across the Caspian Sea] and is expected to become a competitive alternative to the traditional overland route.”
The new route is being jointly developed by Kazakhstan’s national rail company Temyr Zholy, China Railways, Azerbaijan Railways, the Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping Company and the Baku International Sea Trade Port.