China to help build Crimea bridge

6 May 2014

Chinese companies may participate in the construction of a transport corridor to newly-Russian Crimea via the Black Sea’s Kerch Strait, Russian media say.

State contractor China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) and the private investment fund China International Fund Ltd. (CIF) are planning to take part in the multi-billion-dollar project, the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported on Monday.

An agreement with China could be signed during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit there later this month, said the report, which was translated by Russian news agency RIA.

Full design of the project has not been approved yet, but plans call for either a bridge to carry rail and road traffic, or for part of the route to pass through a tunnel.

Plans are expected to be finalized by the end of the month, while the financial and construction models are due in July, RIA reported.

According to sources cited by Kommersant, cooperation with Chinese companies does not mean that Russian contractors will not be involved in the project, and all leading infrastructure construction companies in Russia have expressed their interest in the transport corridor.

Crimea, left, and Russia are separated by the narrow Kerch Straight (Wikimedia Commons)

Different outsourcing processes are being considered – from a tender to handing off the project directly to a group of companies.

By November 1, engineering surveys are planned to be completed as well as technical and economic assessments. RIA reported that the total project cost is estimated at $1.27bn, but other estimates have been much higher and, without a detailed design, are bound to change.

China International Fund is a private investor specializing in infrastructure projects. It is well known for major projects in Angola and Guinea. The state-owned CRCC is one of the world’s largest construction companies, with experience in building railways, highways, bridges and tunnels. Apart from China, the company also operates in Libya and Saudi Arabia.

Last month, Russia’s United Transport Directorate said that the Kerch Strait Ferry Line, linking southern Russia’s Krasnodar region with Crimea, will cease freight services in an effort to triple the capacity for passengers.

Crimean Tourism Minister Yelena Yurchenko has also said the region would be ready to receive six million tourists this year.

Crimea seceded from Ukraine and was incorporated into Russia on 18 March following a referendum amid Ukraine’s political turmoil. The UN General Assembly passed a non-binding resolution declaring the referendum invalid on 27 March.

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