An important part of developing Azerbaijan’s transport infrastructure has been the new Baku International Sea Trade Port Complex, which is strengthening the city’s presence on the Caspian Sea.
The Caspian coast of Azerbaijan is a hub of activity, with tourists and locals strolling the Boulevard in Baku, construction projects underway for the European Games, and vast areas allocated to energy companies and facilities such as Baku Shipyard. Approximately 65 km south of Baku in the Alat settlement, the new Baku International Sea Trade Port Complex will become a critical part of Azerbaijan’s marine transport sector. Initially set to receive 50,000 TEUs per year, the second phase will give the complex a capacity of 150,000 TEUs, and the third will allow for 1 million TEUs on an annual basis, a significant number for a non-ocean based port. Azerbaijan is set to become a leader in facilitating trade in the Caspian.
Railway projects have moved swiftly forward, new roads and bridges have been constructed, and a new terminal of the Heydar Aliyev International Airport has been completed successfully. Azerbaijan’s transport sector has developed quickly in line with national growth. Marine transport plays an significant role and ensures that Azerbaijan can not only be an exporter, but also a stable central point of the Caspian Sea’s regional development. Moving the operations of the port from Baku to Alat by the end of 2015 will allow the project to have a higher capacity and be a more prominent feature. The drop of oil prices and Azerbaijan’s currency depreciation has, however, certainly unsettled some across the country and at the port. Nevertheless, a spokesperson for the Sea Port downplayed any concern and said in March 2015 that the “sea port is one of the most promising areas of the transport sector” and that the government was taking all measures to continue construction despite economic concerns.
AZPROMO has backed this project as a potential investment opportunity. Due to its location as a central point between East, West, North, and South, the new Baku port is also set to be an International Logistics Center and plans have been put forward by European Commission experts for a grant to establish this. The logistics center will be within the framework of Transport Corridor Europe Caucasus Asia (TRACECA), an international organization that was established to develop trade potential from East to West. In addition to this, AZPROMO has also suggested that a free economic zone will be established in the coming years, enabling the port to be a center of both transport and economic growth.
The three stages, and the scale of the project, is recognition that Azerbaijan’s marine sector has potential to grow. Azerbaijan has always prided itself on being a leader in the Caspian Sea, and, despite the falling of oil prices, construction of the port will continue. As Azerbaijan looks to develop its non-oil sectors, the port could be crucial as part of economic diversification and will certainly enable a greater volume of trade.