Recent political and economic developments at the global and regional levels have resulted in a more conducive development environment in the Asian and Pacific region and the opening-up of opportunities for international trade and tourism development for the developing countries of the region, including those which are landlocked. Nevertheless, the lack of unhindered access to the sea adds transport costs and time to international trade transactions. In addition, landlocked countries face greater transport risks and hazards than countries which have direct access to nternational sea routes.
The United Nations has addressed the specific concerns of landlocked countries in a number of documents. Among those which are directly related to transport are the following: General Assembly resolution 50/97 of 20 December 1995 on specific actions related to the particular needs and problems of landlocked developing countries; “Global framework for transit transport cooperation between landlocked and transit developing countries and the donor community” (TD/B/LDC/AC. /6); “Problem of physical infrastructure development of the landlocked countries, ncluding economies in transition” (E/ESCAP/SREC(7)/3); and “Progress report on measures designed to improve the transit transport environment in Central Asia” (A/ 51/288). With Just-in-time delivery becoming almost a prerequisite for efficient international trade, particularly in an increasingly competitive market environment, adequate attention must be given to resolving problems in transport areas which are crucial for the efficient development of the international trade of landlocked countries.
The inauguration in May 1996 of a new rail line linking the Islamic Republic of Iran nd Turkmenistan, thus completing a new “silk rail route” from China to Europe via the landlocked countries of Central Asia; the priority attention of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the development of the necessary physical infrastructure, as well as bilateral and multilateral agreements for international transport particularly to and from Central Asia; the establishment in May 1996 of a forum for the comprehensive development of regions along the second Europe-Asia continental bridge which is of importance to Mongolia and the landlocked countries of Central Asia; the initiative of he Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the development of a rail link from Singapore through Malaysia, Thailand, Viet Nam or the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and on to Kunming, China; and the recently completed study of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) on transport and transit needs, including those of Nepal and Bhutan, are vivid illustrations of the commitment of the member countries of ESCAP to the development of a land transport network in Asia in The present note highlights some of the issues and problems of physical and soft nfrastructure in the main modes of transport (with emphasis on land transport, inland waterways and connections to seaports) which serve the landlocked countries in the region, namely Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. l.
MAJOR ISSUES AND PROBLEMS IN THE TRANSPORT SECTOR To improve the efficiency and competitiveness of international trade and tourism in the landlocked countries of the region, the following issues relating to major modes of transport need to be addressed: (a) choice of alternative transit routes; b) reduction of transit costs and time along the transport routes; and (c) cooperation among the organizations concerned. A. Choice of alternative transit routes Although many of the landlocked countries in the region have several potential routes to seaports, most of them are heavily dependent on one main transit route because of limited resources and, in some cases, the limited options open to them in the past as a result of the political situation at that time.
This render these countries vulnerable to disruption of transit services owing to national disasters, technical and operational breakdowns, labour disputes and conflicts. Moreover, in view of regionalization and globalization of economic development, different access routes to different seaports may be required for efficient transport of goods to trade partners located in different parts of the globe. Therefore, it is important for any landlocked country to have a choice of transit land transport routes (and inland waterways if applicable) to the main seaports in Asia, as well as a choice of air transport routes and connections to major subregional, regional and global destinations. In addition, in view of the development of trade within Asia, as well as between
Asia and Europe, there is an increasing demand for reliable and efficient intra-Asia and Asia-Europe land bridges with connections to landlocked countries in the region. The landlocked countries need to be part of an integrated approach to the development of an intra-Asia and Asia-Europe land transport network of international importance. 1. Formalization of the international land transport network in Asia The Commission at its forty-eighth session, held in Beijing in April 1992, endorsed comprising the Asian Highway; the Trans-Asian Railway; and facilitation of land ransport, as a priority for phase II (1992-1996) of the Transport and Communications Decade for Asia and the Pacific.
The objective of the project is to assist in creating a land transport network in Asia to facilitate international trade and tourism. The route selection criteria include capital-to-capital links and connections to main industrial and agricultural centres, and connections to major seaports and river ports, as well as to major container terminals and depots. The network should also provide interregional land transport linkages, particularly with the region of the Economic Commission for Europe. The project enjoys support from 25 ESCAP members, including all the landlocked countries except Armenia, Azerbaijan and Bhutan which have yet to Join the project. Armenia and Azerbaijan, however, are participating in activities that are related to ALTID.
With the successful implementation of phase I (1994-1995) of the ALTID project, considerable progress has been achieved in the formulation of the international land transport network in Asia linking landlocked countries. The Asian Highway network (see figure l) has been revised in the southern corridor connecting the Islamic Republic of Iran – South Asia – South-East Asia (which includes he landlocked countries of Afghanistan, Nepal and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic), and a new network formulated in the corridor South-East Asia – China – Mongolia. A study on the development of highway networks in the landlocked Asian republics (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) to identify the potential Asian Highway routes in those countries was completed in 1996.
The Trans-Asian Railway network includes the following land bridges between Asia and Europe: Europe-Russian Federation and/or China-Korean peninsula; Europe-Islamic Republic of Iran-Central Asia-China (New Silk Railway); Europe-Islamic Republic of Iran-South Asia-South-East Asia. With the completion during phase I ofa feasibility study on connecting the rail networks of China, Kazakstan, Mongolia, the Russian Federation and the Korean peninsula, and a project on the Trans-Asian Railway in the Indo-China and ASEAN subregions, the network has been formulated in the northern corridor of the Asia-Europe routes (see fgure II) which includes the landlocked countries of Kazakstan and Mongolia, and in the Indo-China and ASEAN subregions (see figure Ill), the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.
A potential Trans- Asian Railway network in the southern corridor of the Asia-Europe routes (of importance to Afghanistan and Nepal) was also identified (see fgure ‘V) through a related preliminary study. The Commission at its fifty-second session reiterated its strong support for the ALTID project and emphasized the importance of its completion and of improving the operational efficiency of both the Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway networks, including the Asia-Europe links, at the earliest possible date. The Commission adopted resolution 52/9 of 24 April 1996 on Intra-Asia and Asia-Europe land bridges. rogramme of the New Delhi Action Plan on Infrastructure Development in Asia and the Pacific.
It also approved the plan of action for the implementation of phase II (1996-1997) of the ALTID project, which includes a detailed study on the southern corridor of the Trans-Asian Railway, and it decided that a study on the development of the Railway in the corridor connecting South-East and North-East Asia (including the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Mongolia) should be undertaken and that similar studies on the development of the Asian Highway and the Trans-Asian Railway in the corridor connecting northern Europe with the Russian Federation to the landlocked countries of Central Asia and the Islamic Republic of Iran should be included in the projected phase Ill (1998-1999) of the project. 13. When completed and fully operational for the whole of Asia, the land transport network could provide landlocked countries in the region with a choice of alternative land transport routes to major seaports in Asia, and land transport and land-cum-sea links to any other country in Asia and Europe.
However, to realize such a potential, the landlocked countries must have unhindered access to the network. . Unhindered access to the international land transport network in Asia The construction of the regional land transport network and all related infrastructure is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for reliable and efficient international transport. A legal framework is also required to provide the basis for unhindered access to the routes for efficient international trade and tourism. A coordinated plan for the development of international land transport routes and services based on agreed performance parameters and standards is also essential.
This has been vividly demonstrated by the experience of Europe, where the ollowing four major all-European transport agreements have been adopted: (a) The European Agreement on Main International Traffic Arteries (AGR Agreement) of 1975, which defines the major European roads and establishes uniform technical characteristics; (b) The European Agreement on Main International Railway Lines (AGC Agreement) of 1985, which determines the major lines and infrastructure parameters of the European railway network; (c) The European Agreement on Important International Combined Transport Lines and Related Installations (AGTC Agreement) of 1991, which is the first European ultilateral treaty governing international combined road/rail container and piggyback transport; (d)
International infrastructure agreement covering European inland waterways Oanuary 1996). recommended that a legal framework should be developed for Asia in the form of ESCAP agreements on the Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway, taking into consideration the related experience of the European Union. With such ESCAP agreements in place, all the countries in Asia, including the landlocked countries, would enjoy free access to road and rail transport routes of international importance. 3. Inland waterways of international importance to some of the landlocked countries in Asia Inland water transport can play an important role for the regional or international trade of some landlocked countries.
A number of rivers in these countries can potentially provide the cheapest means of communication with neighbouring countries, or even through them to other countries in the world. For instance, a number of tributaries of the Brahmaputra River flow out of Bhutan through India to Bangladesh; the Lao People’s Democratic Republic is bordered or bisected by the Mekong River which flows through China, Myanmar, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam; Mongolia gives rise to the Yenisey, the Angara and the Amur-Heilongjiang rivers which link the country to China and the Russian Federation; and Nepal has three of the four largest tributaries of the Ganges River flowing from India to Bangladesh.
The improvement and development of inland water transport infrastructure and services would benefit all of these countries in various ways, including cost savings, environmental protection and energy savings. In addition, transit by water is more easily accepted by operators of seaports located at river mouths and it is less prone o losses, pilferage and breakage than transit by road and rail. At the present time, however, the rivers are not fully utilized for navigation in most landlocked countries. Most of the rivers are still in a natural state without appropriate improvement and marking. Water levels in the rivers are not always regular or sufficient and the gradient is often very steep. In some river sections, the waterways are full of rapids and shoals which endanger vessel navigation or even interrupt it entirely.
Some rivers are blocked with siltation, cables, pipelines, bridges, dams and other structures along or crossing them. Few aids to navigation are nstalled to mark the navigable channels in the rivers. All these factors limit the free use of the rivers for transport. However, the potential of inland water transport for international trade should be evaluated. In order to promote the use of rivers for transport which would serve the needs of landlocked countries, ESCAP is implementing several projects under the regional action programme of the New Delhi Action Plan on Infrastructure Development, which was launched by the Ministerial Conference on Infrastructure in October 1996.
One of the projects is on the harmonization of requirements relating to international mportance of common or well harmonized rules, and provide guidance with regard to navigation rules, aids to navigation, the carriage of dangerous goods, facilitation measures and waterway classifications for internationally navigable rivers. Another important project is on the development of inland water transport infrastructure and services. This project includes a regional strategic study for the development of inland water transport in the ESCAP region. An intensive investigation will be carried out to identify the problems faced by the inland water transport sector. The situation ill be compared with successful experiences in other parts of the world.
This study should provide a clear picture of the advantages and disadvantages of inland water transport in specific situations, identify opportunities for development and suggest regional actions and national policy options to expand the use of rivers for navigation in the ESCAP region. Expert group and policy-level meetings will be held to discuss the findings and suggestions of the study. Necessary follow-up actions will be taken at both the regional and national levels. With regard to some landlocked Asian republics, the same opportunity may exist or transit transport through inland waterways. Specific studies need to be carried out to identify the potential for the expanded use of inland waterways. 4. Air transport It goes without saying that reliable and efficient air transport is crucial for the economic and social progress of landlocked countries.
While the emphasis in this paper is on related aspects of land transport, inland waterways and maritime linkages and transport, the following activities of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) have been included in the regional action programme 1997-2001) of the New Delhi Action Plan on Infrastructure Development in Asia and the Pacific and endorsed by the Ministerial Conference on Infrastructure: programme of transition to the new civil aviation communications, navigation and surveillance and air traffic management system; programme for economic reform in civil aviation in Asia and the Pacific; programme for the protection of the environment in the vicinity of airports; improvement and harmonization of flight safety standards; expansion of the UNDP-promoted ICAO TRAINAIR programme; and poverty alleviation through rural airfield development in least developed countries. These projects address major problem areas in air transport in the Asian and Pacific region, including in the landlocked countries. B.
Reduction of transit time and costs along the transport routes of While the formulation of an international land transport network in Asia is in progress through the implementation of the ALTID project, there are already a provide the landlocked countries with access to seaports. These are reflected in table 1. 1. Reduction of transit time and costs at border crossings and ports Even when all necessary infrastructure is in place, the delay of vehicles at border rossings can entail tremendous losses of resources and time. A similar problem occurs when the waiting time is long for ships to be loaded and unloaded in seaports which serve landlocked countries. When international inland waterways are available for use, delays of cargo at cross-border points have similar economic effects. a) Facilitation of land transport at border-crossings (i)Commission resolution 48/11 on road and rail transport modes in relation to facilitation measures Recognizing that harmonized transport facilitation measures are a prerequisite for efficient international trade and transport along road and rail routes of nternational importance, the Page 1 1 Commission at its forty-eighth session adopted resolution 48/11 of 23 April 1992 on road and rail transport modes in relation to facilitation measures. By that resolution, it recommended that the countries in the region, if they had not already done so, consider the possibility of acceding to seven international conventions. The status of the accession of the landlocked and neighbouring countries in Asia to the international conventions is shown in table 2.
It is clear that in order to facilitate international and bilateral trade and tourism the constructive cooperation of the ountries is required to create a minimum legal basis for land transport cross-border traffic. In this respect ESCAP adopted a subregional approach to providing assistance to countries. A special seminar for the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) subregion (with the participation of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) on the implications and benefits of accession to the conventions was held in Tehran in November 1994. A similar seminar for the North-East Asian countries (including the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Mongolia) was conducted in May 1996 in Bangkok.
Another seminar for countries of the Greater Mekong subregion (including the Lao People’s Democratic Republic) was organized Jointly by ESCAP and the Asian Development Bank at It is very encouraging to note that Uzbekistan has acceded to six conventions, and Kazakstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have each acceded to four. However, Afghanistan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan are each party to only two; Azerbaijan, to one; and Bhutan, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mongolia and Nepal to none at all. A similar situation of accession to few or no convention occurs in the neighbouring ountries of Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Myanmar, Pakistan, Thailand and Viet Nam. Such a situation calls for the urgent implementation of Commission resolution 48/11 by all landlocked countries and their neighbouring countries. Transit facilitation Transit transport plays a particularly important role in the development of landlocked countries.
Two international conventions, namely the Convention and Statute on Freedom of Transit, Barcelona, 20 April 1921 (popularly referred to as the “Barcelona Transit Convention”), and the Convention on Transit Trade of Landlocked States, New York, 8 July 1965 (“New York Transit Convention”) assist in facilitating the transit transport of landlocked countries. However, only a few of the Asian landlocked countries and their neighbouring countries are contracting parties of these conventions, as indicated in table 3. There is clearly great potential to improve transit transport in the region. It is recommended that the landlocked countries and the neighbouring countries should accede, if they have not already done so, to the Barcelona and New York transit conventions as soon as possible.
The development of a subregional multilateral transit treaty/agreement also ppears to be a promising approach to transit facilitation. Preparation of such a draft transit treaty for the ECO region, for example, could be carried out as part of the project on international transport development in the ECO region, which is being proposed Jointly by ESCAP, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and ECO for possible funding by the Islamic Development Bank. (iii) Multilateral and bilateral agreements on land transport facilitation Multilateral and bilateral agreements which govern land transport at border crossings are of great importance to the landlocked countries in Asia.
Given the role f the agreements in promoting international traffic, a database covering mainland Asia is being established at ESCAP as part of the ALTID project. As indicated above, there are several main rivers in Asia which may be used by landlocked countries for international transport. To facilitate navigation and river basin development activities, a draft agreement on commercial navigation on the Lancang Jiang – Mekong River (upper reaches of the Mekong River) between the Governments of China, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Thailand has been drawn up and it is expected that this agreement will be signed in the near uture.
The Agreement on Cooperation for the Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin was signed on 5 April 1995 between the countries of the Lower Mekong River basin (Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Thailand and Viet Nam). The Mekong River Commission is the institutional framework through which the Agreement will be implemented. The bilateral agreement between Bangladesh and India, which is signed on a biennial basis, could also be of practical interest to landlocked countries. Similar arrangements which take into account the related experience in other regions could e of great practical value in facilitating international inland water transport in Asia, including in landlocked countries. c) Facilitation of maritime traffic In addition to facilitation for land transport and transport on inland waterways, facilitation of maritime traffic plays an important role in improving the efficiency of the international land-cum-sea transport systems which serve the landlocked In an era of large ships with efficient cargo operations resulting in very short stays in port, the delays caused by documentary “red tape” result in extra costs and time. To improve the situation, countries in the region having seaports (including those serving landlocked countries) are adopting the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic, 1965 (FAL Convention) as amended. The objective of the FAL Convention is to simplify the procedures for the inward clearance of ships, cargoes, passengers and crew on arrival in a port.
This can be achieved by the utilization of six standard declaration forms and the adoption of common standards for processing documentation. However, among the ESCAP members and associate members, only Australia, China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Fiji, India, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Marshall Islands, New Zealand, the Russian Federation, United States of America and Vanuatu are party (as of January 1997) to the FAL Convention. It is clear that there is potential to improve the efficiency of the land- cum-sea routes serving landlocked countries if all the coastal countries concerned accede to the FAL Convention.
To assist the countries in the process of acceding to the Convention, ESCAP, in cooperation with the International Maritime Organization, ommenced in 1993 a four-year programme of country-level workshops and subregional seminars to promote the adoption of the FAL Convention and the implementation of its provisions. (d) Corridor studies To assist member countries in Asia, including landlocked countries, in the facilitation of cross-border traffic, ESCAP undertakes corridor studies to identify non- physical impediments to the flow of goods which cause delays and add unnecessary costs to the transport process. One such study, for example, was completed in 1994 in the corridor Singapore – Malaysia – Thailand – the Lao People’s Democratic Republic – Viet Nam. The study was extended in 1995 to cover Cambodia and in 1996 to include Myanmar.
The study revealed the following impediments: restrictions on the movement of vehicles and drivers across borders; restrictions on the movement of cargo between the port and inland origin/destination without customs inspection in the port; restrictions on the movement of third country or transit cargo; limitations on the effective use of multimodal transport; and failure to make use of available technology and information to plan port and cargo-handling operations. The reports lso provided recommendations for dealing with these impediments. A study carried out by ADB on regional technical assistance to the Greater Mekong subregion for mitigation of non-physical barriers to cross-border movement of goods and people (completed in October 1996) should also be mentioned in this context.
Similar studies are to be carried out as recommended by the Ministerial Conference on Infrastructure along the major intra-Asia and Asia-Europe land bridges, with the next ESCAP study planned for the corridor Port of Bandar Abbas (Islamic Republic of Iran) – landlocked countries of Central Asia – China. One other impediment frequently found in the landlocked countries in Asia is a lack of a proper coordinating mechanism at the national level among the ministries and agencies involved in cross-border procedures and formalities. 2. Improvement of transport logistics Multimodal transport, freight forwarding and electronic data interchange (ED’) play an increasingly important role in the development of international trade. Just- in-time delivery, which is becoming a prerequisite for competitive international trade, increases the need for a highly efficient integrated system of despatch, transport and