Aiming for an economic boost as part of China’s anticipated Silk Road corridor to Europe, the republic of Georgia has picked a local-U.S. joint venture, backed by global investors, to develop a $2.5-billion deep-sea port at Anaklia on the Black Sea. The team, which includes New Jersey-based Conti Enterprises and California-based designer Moffatt & Nichol, won the contract over China-owned finalist Power Construction Corp. Others that were short-listed included an AECOM-United Arab Emirates team as well as China’s China Harbor Engineering Co., France’s Bouygues and Japan’s Mitsui.
Construction of the 400-hectare port by the winning team, which includes Georgia financial firm TBC Holding, is set to start by year-end and finish in three years. The consortium has site use rights for 49 years and can develop a tax-free industrial zone on 600 adjacent hectares. Georgia’s government will invest $100 million in the project. The project is set to create up to 3,400 construction jobs and add capacity to process, initially, 7 million tons of cargo annually and more than 40 million in 12 years, the team claims. Ports in Georgia cannot now handle Panamax-sized vessels. Developers say the port will raise Georgia’s GDP by 0.5% by 2025.
Observers also see possible political impacts, since Anaklia is close to Georgia’s separatist and Russia-occupied Abkhazia region. The Jamestown Foundation, a nonpartisan U.S. think tank, in a 2015 article said port success could prompt questioning of “the rationale of continued ‘independence’ under Russian occupation, which has so far been accompanied by little more than economic impoverishment and bleak prospects.”