The ‘One Road One Belt’ project in its various iterations has been the target of much discussion, not least in an attempt to work out what its purpose is. However, it is having a catalytic effect on the development of transport infrastructure across Central Asia and beyond.
One good example is the plan to build a new port at Anaklia in Georgia. This project is now entering its execution phase with a programme to construct a terminal largely aimed at medium-sized container vessels of around 10,000 TEUs but with a possibility to handle post-Panamax ships as well.
Whilst the motivation is in part to provide additional capacity in Georgia to complement the port of Poti, a further rationale is to access the traffic into and out of China. The possibility increasingly exists to move cargoes into Georgia, across the Caucasus and over the Caspian Sea, onward to Central Asia and China. Much of the infrastructure required to make this option sufficiently efficient is yet to be built, but the Chinese are keen to pay for it.
A further example is the new Turkish-Georgia rail line. This politically controversial development linking the two countries via Azerbaijan opened at the end of last month. The 500mile route connects the northern Turkish town of Kars to the Georgian capital and is also being marketed as means of accessing the China trade. The long-term plan is to link this new railway to a new container terminal on the Caspian Sea, south of Baku, giving a direct link to the Central Asian freight railways into China either via Turkey’s Black Sea Coast or from Georgia’s ports.
The prospects for the Chinese economy and its trade are uncertain. What the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative will achieve is unknown. However, what it appears it will create is a transport infrastructure linking regions such as the Caucasus into the wider global trade network. This, in turn, will change the patterns of trade both between Asia and Europe but also for areas such as the Mediterranean. The implications for the economies of these regions is highly significant.
Author: Thomas Cullen
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