Scandinavia is eyeing a faster and more efficient Middle Corridor

Image: Nurminen Logistics

The Middle Corridor is gaining popularity in Scandinavian countries as a route connecting the region to Central Asian markets. As sanctions tighten and Scandinavians keep avoiding the Russian route, the alternative corridor is experiencing a growing demand from the Nordics, with one hesitation: the age-old transit time hurdle. How can this corridor speed up and attract more Scandinavian attention?

Zeyba Agalarova, Business Development Manager for Nurminen Logistics, shared with RailFreight.com her perspective on the situation. According to her experience, the current transit time from Scandinavia to Central Asia will require at least one month.

Image: © Zeyba Agalarova.

Route overview

To connect Scandinavian countries with Central Asia, there are various options on the table. Agalarova focused on two, both using Hamburg as the consolidation centre for Scandinavian products. The first one will utilise the rail connection between Hamburg and Istanbul, crossing Austria, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. Once cargo reaches Istanbul, it will be reloaded onto the ship connecting the port of Poti in Georgia. Trains will deliver containers between Georgia and Azerbaijan. From the port of Baku in Azerbaijan, vessels will transport the cargo to the port of Aktau in Kazakhstan.

Complicated as it sounds, another route is slightly simpler and cheaper but has a longer transit time. The route remains largely the same, besides the Hamburg-Poti section purely relying on ocean freight. For the rest of the journey between Poti and Aktau, the two routes experience the same and almost inevitable bottlenecks that are well-known to all. What can be done to make the section between Poti and Aktau faster?

Increase port capacity

Two ports, Poti and Aktau, face capacity bottlenecks, and Agalarova agreed with that. According to her, the ports of Poti and Aktau are currently experiencing a lack-of-platform issue, which results in long waiting times for containers to be reloaded. “The congestion could last for weeks,” Agalarova explained. The limited capacity in ports has created congestion and uncertainty over transit times.

Better rail connection

“Railways in Azerbaijan are good, but Georgia needs to improve its rail infrastructure. The same goes for Kazakhstan,” underlined Agalarova. Besides expanding railway networks, Agalarova thinks that increasing the rolling stock between Georgia and Azerbaijan would also speed up the corridor operations. Furthermore, “It will be very helpful to plan all departures in advance from Poti and Batumi ports in Georgia to Alat in Azerbaijan”, where the train will further connect to the port of Baku.

Digitalisation and recognition

Since the route will cross various countries with different customs clearance systems, extra paperwork will be added to the workload for forwarders. Agalarova proposed that the implementation of digital documents will benefit the corridor, specifically if an electronic transit document infrastructure could emerge from the market that can inspect “the dislocation of the containers on the whole transportation journey”.

Moreover, apart from the still developing Middle Corridor infrastructure, the lack of market recognition has also resulted in some trust issues for European shippers using the route. Agalarova highlighted that some European customers’ hesitance in using the Middle Corridor stemmed from unfamiliarity with this transit route. However, nurturing market recognition will require time and commitment from various logistics suppliers. When the capacity grows, maybe this could be done easier.

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Author: Chengfan Zhao

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Scandinavia is eyeing a faster and more efficient Middle Corridor | RailFreight.com

Scandinavia is eyeing a faster and more efficient Middle Corridor

Image: Nurminen Logistics

The Middle Corridor is gaining popularity in Scandinavian countries as a route connecting the region to Central Asian markets. As sanctions tighten and Scandinavians keep avoiding the Russian route, the alternative corridor is experiencing a growing demand from the Nordics, with one hesitation: the age-old transit time hurdle. How can this corridor speed up and attract more Scandinavian attention?

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Author: Chengfan Zhao

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