A more than six-month halt in Turkish rail freight to unrest-hit Syria is hurting both exporters and logistics firms. Officials at the state-run rail firm, which has big regional plans, say this also affects freight to Iraq.
Turkish State Railways (TCDD), which celebrated its 156th anniversary earlier this week, has big plans to support Turkish exports with a number of logistics centers across the country, officials say, but problems in Syria are currently hampering its connection with southern destinations.
The Syrian line, which also leads to Iraq, one of Turkey’s major exports markets, has been closed for months, hurting sellers and local logistics companies, officials told Hürriyet Daily News. CFS, the Syrian state railway company, informed TCDD earlier this year that many sections of railroad in Syria had been destroyed, and no Turkish load trains have entered the neighboring county since March 5, 2012, TCDD freight officials said in a written statement. “Some 81 kilometers of our transportation route to Iraq passes through Syria. Railroad freight is being affected by the problems in Syria.”
Freight bound for Iraq is currently being carried to Nusaybin, a border town in southeastern Turkey, before being re-loaded onto trucks there. Trade between Turkey and Syria has neared a halt, both due to unrest in the country and the political problems between the two countries.
Logistics companies also say that the halt in traffic on the Istanbul-Ankara rail route due to the ongoing construction of a new high-speed train railroad connecting the country’s two largest cities is affecting the sector, increasing transportation costs. The TCCD normally carries a large amount of freight to Iran and the former Soviet republics, or CIS countries, but one company also told the Daily News that technical problems with ferries that carry railroad cars across Lake Van are another obstacle to rail logistics to points east.
Railroad officials, however, are not pessimistic about the future of railroad logistics. Deputy Minister of Transport Yahya Baş said earlier this week at a ceremony in Ankara that some 1,100 kilometers of new railroad had been built in the past decade, and 6,500 kilometers of existing railroad had been repaired. The government’s goal for 2023, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic, is to have 28,500 kilometers of domestic railroad.
TCDD attaches a great importance to its logistics centers, which provide combo freight options to companies along with some value-added services such as storage. The state-run company began its logistics-centers investment program in 2007, and built three centers located in Halkalı, Istanbul in the northwest; Gelemen, Samsun in the Black Sea region; and the Aegean province of Uşak. Construction work continues at the remaining 13 points, with a target deadline of 2019. The initial phases of some are already complete.
“Once the logistics centers are completed, they will contribute around $40 billion in annual benefits to the Turkish logistics sector, creating 26 million tons of additional load capacity and some 8.4 million square meters of container depots and handling work space,” TCDD told the Daily News.
Railroads to link production facilities to the main lines are also among TCDD’s main concerns. There are some 148 active organized industrial zones in Turkey, and only 7 are connected to the railroads. TCDD is currently working to get another 20 connected to the rail system.
Balnak, a domestic logistics firm with a considerable amount of railroad freight capacity, agrees that TCDD is undergoing a change, with projects to provide more targeted services in the new logistics villages. The quality of the manpower at TCDD is also improving due to training programs, Balnak told the Daily News. Balnak would still like to see some improvement in capacity and in technical equipment, such as an online railcar-tracking system.
(Hürriyet Daily News)