Will Georgia still build the ambitious Anaklia port? New tender in the works
A new tender for the construction of the Anaklia port in Western Georgia is in the works.
One of the most ambitious Georgian projects of the last decade, the port has been accompanied by political scandals since its inception.
Experts say that American and Russian interests clashed in the project.
Georgia has two ports on the Black Sea – in Poti and Batumi. However, due to insufficient depth, not all types of vessels may enter these ports. Therefore, these ports cannot compete with either Turkish or Russian Black Sea ports.
If a port is built in Anaklia, the picture will change dramatically. The project says that the port will be able to accept ships with a capacity of up to 10,000 containers – for comparison, the country’s main port, Poti, can accept ships with a capacity of only 1,500 containers. The Anaklia port will significantly increase the transit potential of Georgia, as it will open the way for the transit of goods between Central Asia and Europe.
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New government plans
“As you know, unfortunately, [previous] investors did not fulfill their obligations – they could not find the required amount of $400 million,” Prime Minister Garibashvili said.
The Minister of Economy Natia Turnava said that the Agency for the Development of the Deep-Water Port of Anaklia has already been created, which will be responsible for the selection of investors:
“We hope this project will be of interest primarily to Western business.”
About the defeat of the first port project, American investors and Moscow’s discontent
The idea of building a port in Anaklia belongs to the third president of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili. After coming to power in 2012, the current ruling Georgian Dream party began a fierce struggle against all of Saakashvili’s projects. However, the port of Anaklia was an exception.
On the contrary, it was called “the project of the century”. A tender was announced, in which the Anaklia Development Consortium won in 2016 with an equity participation of the American company Conti International LLC. One of the founders of the consortium is TBC Holding, and its owner is one of the most successful businessmen in Georgia, the former chairman of the supervisory board of the largest bank in Georgia, TBC-Bank, Mamuka Khazaradze.
Official Washington expressed open interest and support for the project. Moscow also openly opposed the project, seeing in the project not only a competitor, but also a geopolitical threat. Several Russian officials have made a number of public statements, including that “the port can house US warships, US submarines and NATO warships if necessary.”
Former Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Grigory Karasin directly threatened Georgia: “Tbilisi needs to form an opinion – either it chooses an atmosphere of regional stability in the South Caucasus, or the Euro-Atlantic agenda.”
“If Georgia chooses the latter, it may face the same problems as Ukraine did in 2014”, he added.
The construction of the port began in December 2017, and in July of the following year, work began on deepening the seabed with the help of special equipment.
Problems began in 2018 and became apparent after relations soured between Georgia’s shadow ruler, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, and his favorite, then-Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili (who launched the Anakalia project).
Kvirikashvili resigned. A criminal case was opened against the co-founder of the Development Consortium Anaklia Mamuka Khazaradze (close to Kvirikashvili) over one of his bank’s transactions. And on January 9, 2019, the Khazaradze consortium lost the right to build a port in Anaklia.
The opposition and experts argue that the government’s fight against Khazaradze has become a clear negative signal for investors who could become potential partners of the Anaklia Development Consortium.
One of the common assessments is that if the processes developed in a healthy direction, the first phase of the project would have already been completed.