Georgian giant seaport construction may be jeopardised

Anaklia is expected to become one of the biggest sea ports on the Black Sea. Credit: Anaklia Sea Port

Uncertainty on the Anaklia seaport project continues as the former general contractor wants to appeal to the court seeking protection of its investments, while the Georgian government plans to choose a new investor with particular caution 

“[The] Georgian government terminated the contract with Anaklia Development Consortium [ADC] on the construction of the Anaklia seaport on the Black Sea coast for some USD2.5 billion,” Georgian Minister of Infrastructure Maya Tskitishvili said during a press conference following a government meeting on 9 January. 

The government began preparing a new tender to replace the general contractor on the project, she added.  

ADC said it was going to appeal to the International Court of Justice in response to the Georgian government’s cancellation of the investment agreement with the consortium on the Anaklia deep seaport. Levan Akhvlediani, general director of ADC, said that ADC had invested USD75 million in the project and fully fulfilled its obligation. 

Akhvlediani blamed some top government officials and lawmakers fighting on purpose” in order to undermine the port construction project.  

ADC was chosen to build the Anaklia seaport and began construction in December 2017. In July 2018, ADC commenced a major dredging operation to deepen the port’s bottom to 16 m. In August 2019, New Jersey-based Conti International LLC pulled out from ADC, leaving the consortium without its main investor.  

The court hearings could last for years and, under some circumstances, could even hamper the progress of the project, Mamuka Kipshidze, a Tbilisi-based lawyer, warned.  

In addition, Tskitishvili said that the government would not allow all interested parties to participate in the project.  

“For us, the priority is to have a western partner in this project. It’s also advisable to have a US investor, which would become a basis of not only the economic success of this project, but also fully engage a security component. So, we would welcome American and Western investors, said Tskitishvili. 

An investor that is not compatible with our strategic interests would be unacceptable. We rule out a possibility of co-operation with such an investor, because the project of the port construction has not only an economic dimension, but also a security dimension,” she said. 

Anaklia deep seaport is touted locally as the project of the century as the new port could ramp up Georgian transit potential and could become an important element of a new Silk Road between Asia and Europe. Currently, the biggest seaport in Georgia in the city of Poti could not accept ships of more than 1,500 TEUAnaklia port is expected to attract ships of 10,000 teu.