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ITE Transport and Logistics

Your guide to the Caspian Sea’s major ports

The Caspian Sea ranks amongst the world’s most important bodies of water. Flanked on all sides by major economies, home to vast natural resources, and located in the middle of several important transport corridors, its importance as a maritime hub cannot be over emphasised.

As you might expect from the largest inland sea in the world, the Caspian relies on a network of sea ports to keep goods and people moving throughout the region. It’s through these portals that millions of tons of freight, makes its way to Asia, Europe and even further afield.

Here, we shine a spotlight on the Caspian’s major sea ports. Additionally, we’ll take a look at how maritime trade is set to develop in the region thanks to numerous upgrade programmes from local nations.

The port of Baku: the Caspian’s biggest sea port

Azerbaijan’s Port of Baku is the oldest, largest sea port in the region, and the only such facility open to international trade in the country.

Potential cargo handling capacity at the port comes to 18 million tons annually, with actual capacity totalling around 9 million tons a year. While it handles a wide variety of cargoes, include breakbulk and oversized freight, vehicles, and containers, Baku primarily deals primarily with oil and mineral cargoes.

There is one snag for the Port of Baku: its location in the centre of Azerbaijan’s capital of the same name. Any major port expansions have been hampered by a lack of available land. To accommodate higher anticipated cargo volumes as global oil prices rise (traffic levels at the port are tied to volatility in global oil markets), a new facility is under construction some 60km to the north of Baku in Alat.
Phase one of the Alat site’s construction is underway and is slated for completion by the end of 2017. A general 650m 4 berth quay, a 300m single berth roll-on-roll-off quay and a 450m service berth are being built here. After phase one is complete, Azerbaijan’s newest port would hold an annual freight capacity of between 10-11.5 million tons. Container traffic is expected to clock in at a maximum of 50,000 TEUs a year.

Kazakhstan’s expands Aktau port, builds new maritime facility

Aktau holds the distinction of being Kazakhstan’s only Caspian Sea port. As such, it’s the point of entry for a host of cargoes include both petroleum products and consumer goods. Unlike Baku, Aktau actively pushes the limits of its 12 million ton freight handling capacity each year.

Given the fact Aktau handles essentially all of Kazakhstan’s maritime trade, this is not surprising. Aktau is equipped with 4 oil loading terminals, three dry-cargo terminals, and 12 berths of varying lengths – yet this is not enough to deal with freight traffic at present.

By 2020 Aktau will be outfitted with a number of new storage facilities and infrastructure elements to substantially bump up its cargo handling capabilities. In the construction pipeline are several additional berths, a grain silo, and dry terminals. It is hoped these will increase cargo traffic at Aktau to around 18 million tons of freight annually.

Reliance on a single port is likely to hamper cargo flow in the long run – something which Kazakhstan has realised. The nation has built, and launched in 2016, a brand new facility in Kuryk to improve freight operations. Initially a ferry complex, able to handle 4 million tons of freight a year, the Port of Kuryk is expected to handle 35% of Kazakh maritime trade. Expected cargoes passing through the port include petroleum products, grain, fertilisers, and chemicals.

Other ports & maritime developments in the Caspian Sea

Russia has three ports on the Caspian coast: Makhachkala, Olya, and Astrakhan. Collectively, this trio of sites see 8% of Russia’s sea freight volumes, although traffic levels have been dwindling through these sites in recent years. Around 7.9 million tons of cargo passes through Russia’s Caspian facilities each year.

Elsewhere, Turkmenistan has been building a new $2 billion sea port at Turkmenbashi since 2013 – as a replacement the city’s existing facility. Once fully operational, Turkmenbashi seaport will have an estimated capacity of 15 million tons of cargo per year. It will also be integrated into a multimodal hub, with road and rail routes connecting the port to mainland Turkmenistan and beyond.

Iran’s largest Caspian Port, and its third largest in general, is Anzali with a nominal cargo capacity of 11 million tons. Its actual capacity totals 7 million tons. It is in close proximity to the Caspian’s largest mineral deposit too, making it a vital terminal for Iran’s oil operations.

Uncover more sea port knowledge at TransCaspian

If you want to discover the potential of the Caspian Sea for transport and logistics, and get to grips with the operations of major regional operators, head to TransCaspian.

Located at the Baku Expo Centre, Azerbaijan, between 26-28 April, TransCaspian brings together transport and logistics companies, sea and river port authorities, intra-logistics equipment producers and many more major industrial figures, with international operators. It is the ideal platform to expand into the Caspian region and beyond.

If you would like to discuss the ways you can take part in the region’s leading transport and logistics exhibition, or want more information about the show, contact us today.


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