Air Astana and national rail operator Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ) are joining forces to create a freight carrier before the end of this year.
The intent was made public by Alik Aidarbayev, Kazakhstan’s Minister for Investment and Development, at a press conference held in Astana.
According to the politician, the operation will be kicked off with two freighters. Mr Aidarbayev did not specify which type they will be and if purchased or leased nor did he mention which name
the newcomer will be given.
The intended step is long overdue, he emphasized, because up to now larger quantities of air freight consignments are brought into the country exclusively by foreign cargo airlines. This is a result of the lack of main deck capacity provided by an own Kazakh carrier.
Part of KZ’s ambitious substitution policy.
The projected freight joint venture between Air Astana and railway company KTZ will be an important step for the central Asian country in its general attempt to substitute foreign transport services and manage the flow of cargo, wherever possible themselves.
Although Aidarbayev didn’t reveal details of his government’s roadmap for incepting a national cargo airline, local trading firms together with market observers assume that the JV is based on a work sharing model, with Air Astana being responsible for flight operations and ground handling processes at the country’s main airports while KTZ’s task will be to manage the feeding and defeeding activities together with distribution services including warehousing operations.
Same parent company
Realizing the cargo joint venture will be a rather easy exercise since both enterprises belong to the same shareholder, the Kazakhstan state fund of national welfare Samruk-Kazyna. While KTZ is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the fund, it holds 51 percent in Air Astana, with 49 percent belonging to British BAE Systems.
Creating a national freight carrier is part of Kazakhstan’s long-term strategy to become an epicenter of trans-Eurasian transport and trade.
It is in full accord with China’s ambitious strategic and economic efforts to create a new Silk Road linking the Far East with Europe by integrating states like Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and others lying along this vast Eurasian route. While two of the Silk Road’s overland corridors lead through Russian territory, the southerly route via Kazakhstan, crossing the Caspian Sea by ferryboat, bypasses Russia completely, enabling shippers and forwarders to circumvent the Moscow imposed counter-sanctions against many EU products.
In view of Kazakhstan’s outstanding geostrategic situation and the many raw materials the country has to offer, it can be expected that the upcoming new Kazakh cargo airline will play an important role in the reliable supply of goods, including transits.