Cargo carriers reach past the Caspian Political and military events
If the Azerbaijani government had its way, the capital city of Baku might be called a “second Dubai.” Heydar Aliyev International Airport (GYD) – located on the Absheron Peninsula and surrounded on three sides by the inland Caspian Sea – has one of the largest and newest cargo terminals in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region.
Seeking to emulate the United Arab Emirates’ role in turning Dubai into an entrepot between Asia and Europe, Azerbaijan is doing its part to encourage the flow more air cargo traffic through Baku, the home of Silk Way Airlines and flag carrier Azerbaijan Airlines. For instance, in April, Azerbaijan signed an open skies agreement with the United States – a step warmly welcomed by Silk Way, which has been running flights to New York since May of last year. Berati Bulent Ilhan, Cargolux’s regional director for Russia, CIS countries and Turkey, said that a bilateral agreement between Luxembourg and Azerbaijan has given the all-cargo carrier a stronger standing in the region, with 17 weekly frequencies to Baku.
But does Baku really make sense as the epicenter of Caspian region trade? Is such a single hub even necessary? Changes in local industries and a diversifying economy have actually shifted the focus away from Baku. Today, there are equally compelling arguments to create large hubs in other cities around the Caspian basin, such as Ashgabat in Turkmenistan, Tbilisi in Georgia, and Yerevan in Armenia.
As Christian Becker, regional director, Russia and CIS, for Lufthansa Cargo, described the current situation around the inland sea, “it is not easy to see if a ‘second Dubai’ is needed.”