The Agrofinmost project team, headed by the leading expert of the HSE — Skolkovo Institute for Law and Development, Mikhail (Shamil) Orlov, held an online meeting with the representatives of the Ministry of Industry and Natural Resources of Astrakhan Region and the representatives of the regional transport business.

Astrakhan region plays an important role in the system of international transport corridor «North — South» (the ITC «North — South») connecting Russia and Northern Europe with Azerbaijan, India, Iran and other Asian countries. Inland navigation is an important element of this supply chain, so the question is how to improve its efficiency and profitability. This is what the participants of the mini-conference spoke about discussing the prospects for the development of the region’s transport and logistics complex.

One of the integral ways to improve the parameters of the transport corridor is to increase its load. Despite the fact that the intergovernmental agreement on creation of the ITC «North-South» was signed by Russia, India and Iran back in September 2000, and later Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Oman, Syria, Ukraine, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, Bulgaria joined the project, its current load does not exceed 20 percent.

According to the representatives of the regional Ministry, other ways of unlocking potential are overcoming a number of bureaucratic, political and economic obstacles. In particular, the container infrastructure remains a bottleneck of the transport corridor «North — South» on the Russian side. Containers are widely used today and are very convenient for multimodal transportation; the demand for container transportation in the world is growing annually by 15%. Therefore, the work is in progress to equip a full-fledged container terminal in Astrakhan region. Over the past few years, the infrastructure of Astrakhan ports has already significantly improved: capacities have been increased, port cranes and quay walls have been revamped.

In November 2020, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin signed a Decree on the creation of a port special economic zone (PSEZ) in Astrakhan region, according to which the PSEZ and the Caspian cluster will be created in the area of the existing seaport «Olya», which will become a cargo hub for the international transport corridor «North-South». It is planned that by the end of 2023 the existing sea berths 8 and 9 of the port «Olya» will be modernized and equipped and four terminals with a total capacity of 3.3 million tons will be put into operation.

Along with the construction of a specialized terminal, the question of creating a sufficient fleet of container ships arises. This issue can be partially resolved due to the capabilities of the shipyard «Lotos», located in Astrakhan region and being one of the largest in the Southern Federal District.

The port SEZ and the container terminal will make it possible to create a large trade and logistics hub in Astrakhan region for the transportation of goods along the ITC «North-South».
Without canceling the importance of maintaining the guaranteed depths of inland waterways, representatives of Astrakhan logistics shipping companies agreed that under the current constraints, the profitability of river transport can be increased through the use of a shallow-draft fleet and an increase in shuttle shipments, which in turn will improve competitiveness against rail and road transport.