THE development of the Asian highway will complement the evolving role of freight forwarders as logistics and supply chain managers, according to United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) Transport and Tourism Division Transport facilitation Section chief Geetha Karandawala.
At last week’s ASEAN Freight Forwarder Associations (AFFA) general meeting held in Manila, Karandawala stressed infrastructure is key to helping transport stakeholders perform their roles properly. The Asian Highway Route, espoused by UNESCAP and adopted in November this year, will involve 32 countries and link all road networks of ASEAN member countries.
“The road network will be developed according to design standards, proper routing and should make a way for coordinated development,” Karandawala said. She said the group is scouting for areas beyond the ASEAN and its sub-regions to intensify trade in and out of the region.
Part of the Asian Highway Route is the Trans-Asian Railway (TAR). This would involve the alignment of infrastructure with major ports and areas of production within the ASEAN region. “The TAR is what will really link the region together that is why we are concentrating on it. We are currently undertaking demonstration runs of container block trains along the TAR northern corridor,” Karandawala said.
UNESCAP is looking at developing five routes or corridors in the eastern and western part of the region. The most recent demonstration run was between China and Mongolia. “This route normally takes about 14 days of travel. The demonstration run took only about three, nearly four days,” she said.
Karandawala said basic infrastructures exist, although there are “missing links”in the guise of insufficient capacity, poor quality of infrastructure and lack of logistics facilities such as inland container depots.
She stressed there is also the need to identify and isolate bottlenecks, harmonize legal regimes, create fora for networking and exchange of goods, and strengthen capacity building.