Southern, Russia-Avoiding Belt & Road Multimodal Route Receives First China Blockchain Rail Cargo In Azerbaijan For Dispersal To Turkey, Bulgaria And Romania

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With Russia now under sanctions and ports inaccessible, the main rail route from China to the European Union has shifted south to the multi-modal route provided by using the Caspian Sea.

There are still inefficiencies along this route, which exits Kazakhstan at its Caspian Aqtau Port and then ships across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan’s Baku Port, where it can then rejoin rail networks to Turkey and the Black Sea, with additional onward Port access to the southern EU with Bulgaria and Romania. Solving these is already underway, with the EU and China working together to construct improved rail connections between Turkey and the EU, a sign of what may be a more common example of the EU’s ‘Global Gateway’ partnering with Beijing’s BRI rather than competing with it.  

Illustrating this route has been the arrival of the first block train, with digitized cargo manifests, containing fifty, 40 foot containers, which arrived in Azerbaijan from China. There were technical difficulties, which the experience should help highlight and resolve. Delays were incurred due to poor weather conditions on the Caspian, which may result in a different class of rail transporting cargo vessels needing to be deployed on the route. The containers were delivered to Baku by the ‘Garadakh‘ feeder ship, owned by Azerbaijan’s Caspian Shipping Company.

Regular blockchain container shipments will be carried out from China to Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey, in accordance with agreement between the Ministry of Economics of Azerbaijan and Chinese Xian Free Trade Port Construction and Operation Co, during 2022.

Azerbaijan’s cooperation with Chinese companies gained a broader scope after agreement on strategic cooperation in transport-transit sphere, reached in Beijing with the Azerbaijan Railways CJSC under the Belt and Road Initiative.

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Chris Devonshire-Ellis is the Chairman of Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm assists British and Foreign Investment into Asia and has 28 offices throughout China, India, the ASEAN nations and Russia. For strategic and business intelligence concerning China’s Belt & Road Initiative please email or visit us at