For years, China had ambitions to develop the marshy swamps facing Georgia’s Black Sea coast, and under former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, plans were drawn up to turn a large patch of marshland along the coast into a Chinese-designed metropolis with towering glass buildings.
The plan never came to fruition as the funding did not materialize, but a Georgian consortium has not given up on the idea of linking the nation to China’s vast global trade flows: they beat a Chinese rival in the bid and are reviving the area with plans to build a deep water port that will be
able to process 100 million tons of cargo per year by 2025 and generate up to half a percentage point of increased annual growth for the country.
According to the Anaklia Development Consortium, the developer that was granted a 52-year contract to finance and build the greenfield, the $2.5 billion deep water port is the largest infrastructure project in the history of Georgia.
In 2016, it received a $100 million loan from the Partnership Fund, a Georgia government investment firm. In January this year, it signed up a $50 million investment commitment from Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries, a Chinese manufacturer of cargo handling equipment. In May, the consortium signed agreements with several multilaterals for up to $400 million in financing. The consortium also has begun discussions with China Development Bank to seek funding for the project.
Plus the consortium signed up Globalink, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Kerry Logistics, to help it with the development, design and operation of the 2,000-hectare special economic zone surrounding the port.
“We are honoured to be given the opportunity to participate in this exciting project. Anaklia is a key cargo gateway in the Caucasian region,” says Edwardo Erni, Kerry Logistics’ managing director of China and North Asia.
“With Globalink’s proven track record in the Georgian market, and our comprehensive multimodal freight network across Eurasia, we are committed to devising innovative solutions to facilitate the building of Anaklia Port into a successful logistics hub for the region with integrated logistics, sea-rail, and sea-road services.”
Anaklia is strategically located along the shortest trade route between China and Europe in the Belt and Road network, acting as a cargo gateway of the landlocked Central Asian and Caucasian regions.
Although the port will greatly enhance trade between eastern Europe and China, it inevitably will also strengthen Georgia’s links with nations as far away as the US. Two of Anaklia Consortium’s member companies are from the US: port facility builder Conti International and container terminal operator SSA Marine.
“The Anaklia deep sea port shows the potential of a stronger bilateral relationship between our nations,” US vice-president Mike Pence said during his visit to Georgia last year. “American companies are investing alongside their Georgian counterparts in this multi-billion-dollar project. As we look toward the future, our two nations have untold opportunities to contribute even more to each other’s prosperity.”