Russia, Kazakhstan Discuss Developing New Irtysh River Port With Shipping Potential To China & The Arctic

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The regional governments of Russia’s Omsk Region and Kazakhstan’s Pavlodar Region are discussing the potential construction of a cargo port on the Irtysh River, which begins in China’s north Xinjiang, runs between Kazakhstan and Russia, and eventually flows north into the Arctic Ocean. The Irtysh is the largest tributary river in the world and a major feeder for the River Ob. The Irtysh runs for some 4,248 km.

Omsk Regional Governor Alexander Burkov and Pavlodar Regional Head Abylkair Skakov discussed increasing freight traffic on the Irtysh River this week, with investors from Omsk ready to invest from up to 100 million rubles (US$1.25 million) in the construction of a quay wall.

According to Burkov, implementing this project will reduce costs for freight forwarders by 30%.

“An agreement between the Omsk and Pavlodar Regions has been in effect since 2015. In this period, we have already built strong cooperative ties between the regions. We are considering the construction of a cargo port to load goods from suppliers in the Pavlodar Region and their transportation on the Irtysh,” Burkov was quoted as saying.

Currently, lumber and timber products from the Omsk Region are delivered to Kazakhstan via river transport. In turn, crushed stone, sand and gravel mixes and salt from Kazakhstan are delivered to the Russian region via the Irtysh. The annual volume of cargo transportation is about 150,000 tonnes.

Skakov said “We have the only river port left in Kazakhstan, and we could transport much more cargo via the waterway. It is both faster and more economic. In recent years, cargo traffic volumes have been decreasing, but at one point we were looking at half a million and a million tons of cargo. I believe that there is great business potential here for both areas. Technical issues and barriers in this matter will be resolved jointly at the level of regional authorities and, if necessary, with the support of central authorities.”

Previously, Burkov repeatedly indicated the region’s interest in organizing a system of river cargo transport both aimed at the Arctic route – towards the Northern Sea Route, and to the south – to Kazakhstan and China. In particular, in the forthcoming navigation season the Omsk Region intends to organize an experimental voyage through Kazakhstan to China.

The Irtysk River (known as the Xiao Erjiang in China) runs for about 600km in Xinjiang Province, and has been used as part of the Irtysh–Karamay–Urümqi Canal. Providing the Chinese source of the River with trade benefits would improve the quality of water supply which is currently also used for significant irrigation projects that impact the River flow to the north.

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Russia Briefing is written by Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm has 28 offices throughout Eurasia, including China, Russia, India, and the ASEAN nations, assisting foreign investors into the Eurasian region. Please contact Maria Kotova at for Russian investment advisory or assistance with market intelligence, legal, tax and compliance issues throughout Asia.

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