Geostrategic importance of the Caspian Sea for Azerbaijan

It is hardly to say that the importance of the Caspian Sea is as huge for any other Caspian littoral country as it is in the case of Azerbaijan. Of course, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan also produce oil and gas in the waters of the reservoir, but in the case of Azerbaijan, all its main energy deposits are concentrated in the sea.

Since ancient times, the Caspian Sea has been used for navigation and transport of goods. With the development of oil production in the region, the Caspian Sea also started to be utilized for transportation of oil and oil products. As a result, Azerbaijan became the birthplace of the tanker fleet. It is here for the first time in the history of maritime ships were used to transport oil. The first vessel for oil transportation was the oil barge Alexander, was built in 1873 in Baku. And in 1878 world’s first oil tanker Zoroaster was launched here.[1]

However, the significance of the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan is not only limited to economic activity. The capital Baku and the third most populous city Sumgait are locatedon the coast of Caspian Sea which stretches from North to South as long as 955 km. Baku is also the largest city on the coast of the Caspian Sea. Both cities, as well as the Absheron peninsula are major industrial centers of Azerbaijan. It focuses on the oil, gas production and oil refining industry of the country. In addition, the development of the petrochemical and chemical industry, heavy industry, ferrous and nonferrous metallurgy, power engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, light and food industries, the construction industry, transport infrastructure and services sector are also concentrated in and around Baku.

Residents of the republic as a whole tend to live along Caspian coast, particularly in the Absheron peninsula, where there is the highest population density in the country. Overall, the population of Absheron peninsula, which continuously rises due to immigration from other regions, is about the half the population of the entire country. Officially, according to the census conducted in April 2009, the population of Baku was 2,046.1 thousand inhabitants, in Absheron economic region, which includes Sumgait and Khirdalan cities 514.2 thousand people, while the overall population of the republic was 8922.3 thousand people.11 Today, the number of inhabitants of the Absheron peninsula has grown considerably and is much more than the official figures.

There are many important historical monuments in the Absheron peninsula. Many buildings, samples of medieval architecture, have preserved in this area. Here is fortress with a tower, built in 1301 in Nardaran village. Another important monuments are Round fortress, built in 1232 and the quadrangular castle, the construction of the 14th century located in Mardakan village, which was built during the reign of Shirvanshakhs dynasty. Caspian coast also hosts the square tower in Ramana, built in the 14th century. In another village of Absheron Peninsula, is a temple of Zoroastrians, Ateshgyah, which is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In the Baku preserved architectural Shirvanshahs palace, located in the reserved Inner (Old) city. In addition, there is also the main symbol of Baku, the Maiden Tower. All these monuments of medieval architecture are also included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Apart from Baku and Sumgait, several other cities of the country are located on the coast of the Caspian Sea, among which Lenkoran, Astara, located on the south of the Absheron Peninsula and Khachmaz, Siyazan, Na- bran, are in the northern part of Azerbaijan.

An important and unique site is Neft Dashlary (Oil Rocks) - the town on the sea, was built on the oil platforms in 1949. Oil Rocks is a unique city on stilts. In a short time in the open sea, at a distance of 50 kilometers from the coast there were created a large marine craft for drilling new oil fields in the Caspian shelf. The city has a bakery, a clinic, a tea house, water treatment plant, waste incineration plant, there is a football pitch. Connections ferry flights performed with the marine station in Baku and from the terminal on the Absheron Peninsula, as well as helicopters from the heliport on the island Pirallahi. Neft Dashlary consists of more than 200 stationary platforms, and the ‘streets and lanes’ of this city on the sea stretch for 350 km. This city to this day is an important producer of oil and natural gas.[2] [3]

On the shore of the Caspian Sea are also located the important San- gachal and Dubendi oil terminals. Sangachal, is the world's largest integrated oil and gas processing terminal, which is located 55 km south of Baku and receives, processes, stores and exports crude oil and gas produced from the Azeri and Deepwater Guneshli and gas from the Shahdeniz field. There are different facilities in the terminal, including 3 crude oil storage tanks with 880,000 barrels capacity each. Another port, the Dubendi terminal, has a multiple berth port with large storage comprising multiple tank farms and two railways. The terminal is designed to handle and then to export crude oil through the Baku- Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline or to Georgian terminals via railway. Both of these ports comprise the South Caucasus sea gate in the Eastern direction and play a connecting role with Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.[4]

In addition, in Baku there is the largest airport in the region, which is named after Heydar Aliyev. This airport operates flights to 58 destinations around the world and receives and dispatches 31,000 flights per year. In 2011, construction of a new airport terminal was started. The new terminal has the capacity to serve 5 million passengers and process thousands of tons of cargo per year. The largest Cargo Terminal in the region is in Baku, in the territory of the airport. The total storage area is 20,000 square meters.

Azerbaijan’s capital also operates the largest in the Caspian Sea Baku International Sea Trade Port, created back in 1902. The port consists of the Main Cargo Terminal, Dubendy Oil Terminal, Ferry Terminal, and Passenger Terminal. Its throughput capacity has been constantly growing and is now 15 million tons of liquid bulk and 10 million tons of dry cargoes. Baku authorities is intended to build Port Baku Towers in the near future and transferring the Baku International Marine Trade Port to Alyat just south of Baku. The international trade seaport in Alyat, construction of which started in November 2010, will be able to receive both oil and non-oil freights from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan ports, and then, send on in the western direction.[5]

As seen from the above, the Caspian Sea is central to the livelihoods of Azerbaijan. It is difficult to imagine Azerbaijan future without this sea. The Caspian Sea is closely interwoven with all categories activities of people in Azerbaijan, as well as being the basis for the formation of new areas of employment of its citizens, be it work or leisure. It concerns completely different fields: industry, transport, culture, sports and recreation. And with the increasing of Azerbaijan economic potential activities related to the Caspian Sea are also diversifying. In the future, this feature will only be strengthened. It already expected to implement several major projects in the Caspian Sea. Among them, special attention is drawn to the project to create a residential complex consisting of 41 man-made islands in the Caspian Sea connected by 150 bridges off the shores near Baku, in Garadagh district. Significant in this project is waiting construction world’s tallest tower, named as Azerbaijan tower whose height will reach 1050 m.[6] Construction work of this complex is currently underway on a road system which expected to include a Formula-1 quality race track. Another proposed project which is intended to be realized by the Avrosity Holding is the Zira Island touristic complex. The construction of a tourist complex is expected to be the largest island in the Caspian Sea Zi- ra, is one of the islands of Baku Archipelago located in the Baku bay. The cost of the project, known as “The dream island” by Danish architects Bjarke Ingels Group will be achieved 2 billion dollars. The complex will include one thousand villas, three thousand buildings, an international university, a hospital, golf-ground with a total area of 100 ha and other administrative and public buildings and complexes.[7] In the case of implementation of these two major projects, the value of the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan not only be strengthened in a strategic sense, but also get a new understanding of, and the scope of use, which have not been observed previously. In this case, the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea will be the center of attraction not only for the citizens of Azerbaijan, but also for the rest of the world.

  • [1] Вновь Созданное Азербайджанское Каспийское Морское Пароходство Объединит Около 350 Судов,22 March 2013, available at: http://neftegaz.ru/news/view/115215, (last retrieved on 14 March 2014).
  • [2] Official Site of the State Statistical Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Territories, Number, Density ofPopulation and Territorial Units by Economic and Administrative Regions of Azerbaijan Republic, available at:http://www.azstat.org/statinfo/demoqraphic/en/2_1 .shtml, (last retrieved on 14 March 2014).
  • [3] Mir-Yusif Mir-Babayev, Oil Rocks - The City on the Caspian Sea, available at: http://www.visions.az/oil,402/,(last retrieved on 14 March 2014).
  • [4] R. Ibrahimov, Link in the Chain: South Caucasus as a Transport and Logistics Hub between Regions, Interregional Cooperation In Eurasia Transport and Logistics Projects as an Accelerator of Integration within andBetween the Black Sea Region, the South Caucasus and the Central Asia, Baku, SAM, 2013, p. 59.
  • [5] “New Seaport in Azerbaijan Constructed on Schedule”, 15 February 2012, available at: http://www.transcaspian.az/2012/?p=news__read&t=top&q=36&l=en, (last retrieved on 15 February, 2014).
  • [6] S Grossman, “Azerbaijan Plans World's Tallest Tower Atop Artificial Islands”, 13 April 2012, available at:http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/04/13/azerbaijan-plans-worlds-tallest-tower-atop-artificial-islands/#ixzz2vMndwydt, (last retrieved on 16 February, 2014).
  • [7] Остров Наргин Станет “Островом Мечты”, 18 February 2009, available at:http://www.aze.az/news_ostrov_narqin_stanet_21706.html, (last retrieved on 10 February 2014)
 
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