The Republic of Georgia has awarded a contract to develop a new deep sea port on the Black Sea coast to a consortium involving US infrastructure firm, Conti International.
Developers say the $2.5bn project will establish a new maritime corridor between China and Europe and open a maritime gateway to 160 million people in the landlocked regions of the Caucasus and Central Asia.
They claim the new port at Anaklia, plus an associated free industrial zone, will handle 100 million tons of cargo a year and boost Georgia’s GDP by 0.5% by 2025.
The Anaklia project represents a one-of-a-kind investment in the restoration of the Silk Road that will pay dividends for generations of workers in Asia and Europe– Mamuka Khazaradze, founder and president of TBC Holding
Accommodating ships that are too large for Georgia’s existing ports, Anaklia will berth vessels capable of carrying 10,000 twenty-foot equivalent units of cargo, or TEUs.
The government of Georgia, which initiated the project, will invest $100m in the scheme.
The winning bidder is the Anaklia Development Consortium, a joint venture between Georgian-based TBC Holding and Conti International, a major US developer of infrastructure and capital projects. Other partners include port designer Moffatt & Nichol and port transaction advisor Maritime & Transport Business Solutions from the Netherlands.
Restoring the Silk Road
"The Anaklia project represents a one-of-a-kind investment in the restoration of the Silk Road that will pay dividends for generations of workers in Asia and Europe," said Mamuka Khazaradze, founder and president of TBC Holding and founder of TBC Bank, in a statement.
Kurt Conti, president and chief executive of Conti International, said: "We are looking forward to breaking ground and working with the government of Georgia to help forge new paths from Asia to Europe as well as unlocking the economic potential of Georgia’s neighbours and landlocked nations in the Caucasus."
Construction is due to start by the end of 2016, subject to environmental reviews, with the port starting operations three years later.
The consortium said the project would create up to 3,400 jobs during construction and 6,400 jobs to operate the port.
Anaklia Development Consortium also won the right to develop a tax-free industrial zone to lure shipping companies, manufacturers, and other businesses.
Approximately 400 hectares of land will be set aside for the port, to which the consortium will have use rights for 49 years. The consortium also gets the rights to develop 600 hectares of land for the industrial zone.
The developers said the port would help Georgia capitalise on the Deep and Comprehensive Free Industrial Agreement (DCFTA) signed with the European Union in December 2014, and open trade routes for neighbouring landlocked nations such as Armenia, Azerbaijan and the large Central Asian republics.
Located on the eastern edge of the Black Sea, Anaklia sits on the shortest route from China to Europe, the developers say.
Cargo from China could travel to it north around the Caspian Sea through Kazakhstan and Russia, or south of the Caspian through Central Asian republics and Iran.
Iran is currently developing a comprehensive rail network to become a transcontinental hub between Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
Embarking from Anaklia, cargo ships could cross the Black Sea to Bulgaria and Romania, or enter the Mediterranean through Turkey’s Bosphorus strait.
Photograph: The resort town of Anaklia, shown here, sits on the shortest route from China to Europe, port developers say (GCR/Google Maps)