Georgian-US consortium to build major port on Black Sea

By bne IntelliNews February 9, 2016

Anaklia Development Consortium (ADC), a joint venture comprising Georgian company TBC Holding, US-based Conti International and Moffatt&Nichol and Dutch port transactions adviser Maritime&Transport Business Solutions, has been awarded a contract to build and operate Georgia's largest deep-sea port in Anaklia on the country's northern Black Sea shore. TBC Holding also owns Georgia's second largest bank by assets, TBC Bank.

A $2.5bn endeavour, Anaklia Port will enable Georgia to receive and berth post-Panamex size vessels of 10,000 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units) and is part of Georgia's infrastructure development plan aimed at placing the country at the heart of intermodal transport between Europe and China. In December, Georgia received the first containers from China through a road and maritime transport network connecting China to Turkey and Europe through Georgia. The new Black Sea port, expected to come on stream three years after ground-breaking, will enhance the country's transport connections with Black Sea countries like Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Romania. China could also be linked with Georgia via railway networks of Kazakhstan across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan or via Turkmenistan and Iran.

The Georgian government called for an expression of interest in the project in 2014, receiving 12 bids, which were subsequently narrowed down to seven and then two. The winning consortium overbid in the most recent round a consortium led by Chinese state-owned Power Construction Corporation of China and Georgia's Anaklia Eco-Park and Port which failed to commit to specific terms of investment, according to Georgian daily Rezonansi. 

Tbilisi has committed to invest some $100mn in the project, and an unspecified amount in road and railway infrastructure to connect the port to the country's land transport network. It is unclear how the government and the winning consortium will finance the remainder $2.4bn worth of investment.

ADC will receive the rights to use some 400 hectares of land for 49 years in order to build the port, and the project is expected to create 3,400 jobs during the construction phase, and some 6,400 jobs after the port becomes operational. In addition, ADC will receive the right to develop a free industrial zone spanning some 600 hectares. During its first three years in operation, Anaklia is expected to handle 7mn tonnes of cargo per year.

Mamuka Khazaradze, founder of TBC Holding, told that ADC was now seeking to add other partners that could include Chinese companies. "This project will link Asia and Europe, and will be a continuation of China's One Belt-One Road initiative, which is a new concept for the old Silk Road," he said. Kurt Conti, CEO of Conti International, was quoted in and ADC press release as saying that his company was "looking forward to breaking ground and working with the government of Georgia to help forge new paths from Asia to Europe".

Georgia's existing ports of Batumi and Poti can only handle feeder vessels with a capacity of 1,700 TEU. However, the operator of Poti port announced in 2015 that it would expand it so that it can accommodate vessels of up to 9,000 TEU. The expansion will include building two new deep-water berths which should be completed by 2018.

Anaklia lies on the border between Georgia and the breakaway region of Abkhazia, and its construction is expected to take away some of the traffic going to the much smaller Abkhazian port and capital city of Sokhumi.

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