The Chinese Shipping company COSCO has been at the forefront for the drive towards making the Belt & Road Initiative a reality. It has taken Chinese investments to different maritime countries through the funding of Port and logistics projects. Going through its project profile, one stood out as odd considering the huge capital resources voted for it. This is the Khorgos Gateway Dry Port in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country in the world with an estimated population of 18.3 million people in 2018.
Located in the far eastern region of Kazakhstan, about 15km to the Chinese border, is the KTZE-Khorgos Gateway- a massive logistics and industrial hub. The nearest ocean to the facility is more than 1,600 miles away. Instead of ships and barges, the Gateway is serviced by railway networks. The strategic importance of this location is not far fetched- it lies along the central land route of the new network of trans-Eurasian trade routes being championed by China; the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). Its location enables it to handles transit cargoes that have left China to European countries such as Duisburg, Lodz, Hamburg etc.
Part of the unique landmarks at the port are the 7 giant Train Gantry Cranes specially positioned to horizontally transfer both 20- and 40 footer modular transport containers between the tracks of different railway gauges. The Chinese utilizes the Standard gauge while the Kazakhs utilize the Soviet gauge. It is estimated that the average transshipment time for the cargoes a fully loaded train to be transferred to another train is 47 minutes. Goods take about 15 days to move from China to Europe on the route while the same good might take about 45 to 50 days if transported by sea. Although the cost of transportation of a Shipping Container by rail overland is around 10 times as much as by sea, it is still viable for the transportation of high value goods that needs to be delivered on timely basis.
The Khorgos facility occupies 129.8 hectares of land and boasts of a total capacity of about 18,000 Twenty Equivalent Unit of containers. The zone has many other facilities; including storage, production, textile manufacturing, chemical and metal treatment. The facility also provide logistics, warehousing and storage services.
The day to day running of the Gateway is facilitated by the COSCO Shipping company alongside the Lianyungang Port Holdings Group Co., Ltd. (LPH) and the Temir Zholy (KTZ), the Kazakh’s national railway operator. The three went into tripartite agreement with COSCO Shipping and LPH jointly having 49% stake in the facility.