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Estonia Considering Shipping Goods between Europe and China via Kazakhstan

Wednesday 11 March 2015

ASTANA (Astana Times) – Estonia is the latest country to publicly mull using Kazakhstan’s transit infrastructure to ship goods between China and Europe.

“We’re considering the shipment of merchandise between Europe and Asia through the port of Tallinn on the Baltic Sea and the port of Lianyungang on the Yellow Sea,” CEO of Estonia’s Port of Tallinn Ain Kaljurand said on March 2, as reported by Spanish international service EFE. He elaborated that the idea is “feasible” given that Kazakhstan’s national railway company, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy, is building its own terminal at Lianyungang.

Tallinn, which Kaljurand called one of the most important ports on the Baltic Sea, is operating far below capacity, the CEO said, noting that the transport of Kazakhstan’s exports through the ports has declined in recent years. Kazakhstan has traditionally shipped cereals, coal and oil products through Estonia.

“In December of last year, the transport of coal from Kazakhstan through the port of Tallinn was 40,000 to 50,000 tons, while seven years ago, this quantity was five times greater. The handling of grain was 1.5 mln tons, but today it’s zero”, Kaljurand said, according to EFE’s report.

The entry into force of the agreement on economic, research and technical co-operation in 2010 was of great importance for the development of economic relations between the two countries. On the basis of that agreement, an Estonia-Kazakhstan intergovernmental commission convened for the first time in 2010. By today, the commission has had four sessions, with the fourth one held in Astana on 5-6 November 2013.

A Kazakh parliamentary delegation visited Tallinn in November of last year, with the development of trade and economic relationships high on the agenda. An Estonian business delegation headed by former Estonian President Arnold Rüütel visited Astana in late February, when the need to develop cooperation in agriculture and transit were discussed, along with Estonia’s potential as a bridge between Kazakhstan and Europe.

The Government of Kazakhstan developed a transport sector strategy to make the road system larger, better, more accessible, affordable, efficient, safe, and more environmentally friendly. The strategy also emphasized greater integration among different modes; cost recovery; and more outsourcing of construction, maintenance, operations, and management to the private sector. Regional activities fell within the mandate of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC).

Kazakhstan is in the midst of major transit development, as it aims to capture a greater share of goods shipped from China to Europe. In 2012, a cargo train between Chongqing in southwest China to Duisburg was launched, cutting transit times from months to 15 days as well as cutting costs. In January, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy announced the launch of a pilot “Rail-Air” programme, taking cargo by rail from Chongqing through the Dostyk entry point and to Almaty, then loading it onto flights at Almaty airport, and in February a cargo train travelling from Yiwu, China to Madrid, Spain, via the world’s longest railway line, completed its maiden journey of 26,000 km, crossing Kazakhstan on its way.

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