Arrival of a first container train from China’s east-coast port of Lianyungang to Tbilisi en route to Istanbul is a landmark event for Georgia, PM Irakli Garibashvili said on Sunday.
According to the Georgian Economy Ministry 21 containers with consumer electronics, originating from South Korea, was first shipped to China’s port of Lianyungang from where it departed on rail on November 29 towards Kazakhstan from where it was ferried via Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan and then headed again on rail to Georgia from where the cargo will be shipped by sea to Istanbul.
The journey time of about 15 days via this entire route is roughly twenty five days shorter compared to sea route, according to the Georgian Economy Ministry.
“This is a really historic day,” Georgia’s PM Irakli Garibashvili said at a welcoming ceremony in Tbilisi also attended by some other government members and foreign diplomats. “The first transit train on the Silk Road route is passing through Georgia, which will deliver cargo from China to Turkey. With putting of the Silk Road into operation our country is gaining back its historic mission.”
“Cooperation of countries along the Silk Road will make it possible to deliver cargo from China to Europe faster and cheaper,” he said. “Silk Road project will make Georgia a hub linking Europe and Asia. This is part of our pragmatic policy, which will allow us make our country much more attractive for investments.”
According to the state-owned Georgian Railway one more container train is scheduled to deliver cargo via Georgia through this Trans-Caspian International Transport Route. The Georgian Railway also said, without specifying figures, that it expects “several thousand” of containers to be shipped via this route in 2016. Georgia hopes that completion of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway in 2016, that will link Azerbaijan with Turkey via Georgia, will increase efficiency of the route.
In his speech at the welcoming ceremony of the container train in Tbilisi, the Georgian PM, who visited China in September, noted that Tbilisi has significantly intensified its cooperation with Beijing over the past two years and emphasized on the importance of launch of free trade talks between the two countries; the first round of talks is scheduled in Tbilisi in January.
Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili and Foreign Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili met Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao in Ashgabat on December 12 on the sideline of a conference marking Turkmenistan’s 20th anniversary of neutrality. President Margvelashvili said that signing of the free trade agreement with China will be “a very important event for our country.”