Staunton, May 23 – Dubai-based P&O Logistics which owns some 400 cargo ships announces that it is opening a new shipping route for container cargo between Istanbul and Central Asia using the Black Sea and Russian internal waterways like the Volga-Don Canal and then via the Caspian to Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.
The announcement is being celebrated in Russia and Turkey which are expected to be its primary beneficiaries. It is not clear how Azerbaijan or Iran will react given that this shipping route will bypass their two countries by going through Russia (casp-geo.ru/budet-zapushhena-sudohodnaya-liniya-soedinyayushhaya-turtsiyu-s-tsentralnoj-aziej-cherez-rossiyu/, vestikavkaza.ru/material/349292 and haqqin.az/news/210383).
Nor does the P&O Maritime Logistics announcement make clear how the shallow waters and numerous locks on the Volga-Don canal will affect speed and thus prices of container traffic. At present, ships using the canal cannot draw more than 3.5 meters, something that would preclude the use of this pathway by larger container carriers.
But what is of great significance is that this route is now open. It is not something that depends either on the reopening of railways in the southern Caucasus or on the construction of new routes. And it puts Moscow into the critical game of container traffic. Up to now, Moscow has focused on bulk cargo, something of declining importance.
This new water route is expected to significantly increase container traffic between Turkey and Central Asia and thus at least potentially between China and Europe and will give additional impetus to Moscow’s plans to dredge the Volga-Don Canal and possibly build a new canal between the Caspian and the Black Seas (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/05/putin-said-mulling-new-canal-between.html).
Indeed, it is even possible that the opening of this new container route is a major reason why Moscow is said to be exploring the route for the new canal. Such an arrangement would give Russia enormous influence over the region and reduce the possibility for Azerbaijan and Iran to take advantage of the situation since the fighting Armenia-Azerbaijan fighting last fall.