Georgia’s Anaklia Deep Sea Port

19 m.   |  2019-11-21

 Authors Ara Marjanyan, Karen Veranyan

The construction project of a totally new 5th Black Sea port in Georgia [2] was announced for the first time during the former President Sahakashvili’s New Year message, in December 2011. This refers to the construction project of a deep-water port “Lazika”, formed at the Enguri River delta and the Black Sea coast of Anaklia (pic.1). Later it was renamed to “Anaklia” Deep-Water Port project after the local village located 3.5 km south to the Enguri River with the same name. (pic.1).

Under the project called “new age deal” by Sahakashvili, the “Lazika” port should occupy 85 hectares with the new city built next to the port aiming to occupy another 10 thousand hectares. “The population of this city will reach half a million in ten years”: said President Sahakashvilli in his message. The first ship was expected to dock in autumn of 2014.

There were no analytical publication about Lazika in Georgian official sources, print or electronic media in 2012-2013. This could be explained by the rapid inter-political developments [3]. The projects were not even clear regarding there status as separate entities “Lazika” and “Ankalia”. The first small-scale content publication was made on September 28, 2012, on the Ukranian “Center for Transport Strategies” website. Based on this publication “Sahakashvili wanted to show the West and Russia, that Georgia’s political elite are able to carry out large scale projects in technology and infrastructure, and to strengthen Georgia’s economy in the eyes of its sponsors as an example for the CIS countries”. In addition, according to Sahakashvili: “the construction of a new port and city will become a symbol of the urban development breakthrough for an agrarian Georgia”.

There were three main goals for the “Lazika” project (or “Ankalia”): to improve the demographic conditions on the Georgian-Abkhazian border, to unite Georgian society around this major and national project and involve Georgia in the logistical system of US troops and Federal Armed Forces in Afghanistan.

Pic. 1. Anaklia Cape in the 1978 USSR General Staff topographic map (K-37-18, scale 1։ 200000, depths in meters). The deep-sea glacier approaching Anaklia and decreasing depth gradient (red dashed line).

Border and demographic issues

T he Georgian-Abkhazian border stretches from the Caucasus mountain range through to the range of Kodor up to its Southern end and further across the Enguri River (pic. 2). The total length of the border is 163 km, 98 km of which passes through the mountain range and about 64 km through the Enguri River. It’s essentially the border of the ceasefire line of 1993 and now it has no internationally recognized status [4].

Generally, the borders formed as a result of various conflicts which tend to create the natural barriers, such as rivers, mountain ranges and so on. The Georgian-Abkhazian border follows this regularity; however, it turns right towards the “Abkhazian coast” when reaching the Enguri River, 10km to the Black Sea.

The trench is formed next to the border, encompassing the village of Ganarjis-Mukhuri (pic. 1). In Georgia this area is called Ganmukhuri for short (pic. 2).

Pic. 2. The Georgian-Abkhazian border. The district of Ganmukhuri and the area of the Enguri HPP structures are mentioned.

On October 6, 2013, M. Sahakashvili, the former President of Georgia spoke about the “Lazika” project on Rustavi-2 TV channel: “This port is our defense against the Russians. They plan to annex Ganmukhuri to the occupied territories [5]; this port will deter Russians. We should restrain Russia with our ports and cities”. In this same speech, he also mentions that “Lazika” and “Anaklia” are the same thing.

The distribution of Russian passports in Abkhazia (and in Southern Ossetia) causes considerable tension for Georgians. Moreover, according to some publications (see here and here), most of the Abkhazian population have Russian passports. According to the Georgian political elite, the implementation of Anaklia’s large infrastructure and urban development project will not only unite the society around the great national project but may dramatically change the demographics of the region. The construction can become a unique “gravity point” for the population living on the coastal area of the Enguri River.

From the viewpoint of infrastructures of critical significance, the importance of this area is due to the fact that the “Enguri” underground hydroelectric power station of 1300 MW is adjacent to it, which is the most important component of both Georgia and Abkhazia’s energy systems. Georgia receives 60% electricity produced by the “Enguri” HPP, Abkhazia receives 40% (pic. 2).

The geopolitical component

T he geopolitical component of Anaklia’s project is clearly understood by Sahakashvili’s speech: “We must hurry with the matter of Anaklia. We must manage to transport Afghan cargo. Georgia should become a regional (transit) center”.

Pic. 3. “Supply systems” of the US and coalition forces. Sources: IISS.

The presence of US and coalition armed forces in Afghanistan, their movement, supply and service systems are one of the two most important factors of shaping geopolitical dynamics in our region. During the last decades, the coalition forces in Afghanistan exceeded to 130 thousand, deployed in around 700 separate military bases. It’s necessary to ensure the flow of cargo, equipment, apparel and personnel especially taking into consideration the geographical location of Afghanistan, which is far from port infrastructures. A complex system for the transportation of cargo, people, armaments and military equipment was developed for that reason (pic. 3). Due to a number of factors [6] the most important system for the coalition forces in Afghanistan is the “southern route” of the northern supply system (NDN southern route, pic. 3).

“The western route” stretches along the mid-Asian and south-Caucasian axis, that is by way of “Afghanistan-Middle Asia-Caspian Sea-Azerbaijan-Georgia-Black Sea” and it assumes appropriate infrastructure. The formation of Turkey-Georgia-Azerbaijan “energy-transportation bridge” should be observed within the logic of this western, logistic route. Shakashvili’s claims on Anaklia clearly fit into the US Black Sea-Caspian Sea Central Asian regional [7] geopolitics.

This route is a component of a more comprehensive and long-term geopolitical project and is conditioned by the isolation of Russia and the weakening of its influence in the South Caucasus and Central Asia. During the official meeting on June 11, 2019, the US Secretary of State M. Pompeo addressed the Georgian Prime Minister M. Bakhtadze: “We hope that Georgia will complete the port project (Anaklia). It will enhance Georgia’s relationship with free economies and will prevent Georgia from falling prey to Russian or Chinese economic influence. [8]

Engineering and environmental peculiarities of the project

T he Anaklia project has numerous geographical, hydrographic and climate peculiarities. The new city and port’s area is in the marshes and the foundations of buildings and port structures should be built at a great depth of (25-80 meters), which significantly increases the project’s cost.

In addition, the future port and city are also in the so-called wetlands and marshes of the Colchis Lowland, which is under the strict protection of the Ramsar International Convention [9]. Georgia ratified this convention in 1996. Even if the construction is permitted, an additional environmental cost will be required.

Though the peculiarities of the “Anaklia” deep-sea port project are not limited with this issue, the Enguri River sludge [10] will over time decrease the depth of the port as a result of sediment flow. Therefore the land-based vessels should either periodically deepen the coastal ground or should bring the ports out into the open sea by about 500 meters offshore (pic. 6), which will dramatically increase costs. 

Pic. 4. Poti and Batumi ports’ deep-sea trenches and depth-decreasing gradients. Depth is given in meters.

Deep-sea component of the project

P erhaps, the definition of “deep-sea port” is one of the most frequently mentioned features of the Anaklia port. So let’s address this issue more thoroughly. When constructing ports, the platforms having sufficient depth of coastal areas are chosen. All Georgian ports are deployed in the areas, where the deep-sea trenches of the Black Sea approach the shore. In pic. 3 we show Poti and Batumi port maps, where the isobaths of coastal water depths are shown. The picture clearly shows the deep-sea trenches approaching the ports, with a marked arrangement of the isobaths.

The same type of deep-sea trench approaches Anaklia, next to the mouth of the Enguri River (pic.1). In this regard, the platform of Anaklia is similar to the ports of Batumi and Poti. On the contrary, there isn’t any natural sea bay in Ankalia, like in case of Batumi and Poti ports, which can be utilised for port area. For an all-year round operation, it will be necessary to build two breakwaters.

We should state that there is no universal definition for the “deep-water port” concept that can be used for the different stages of development and for geographically different water basins. The concept “deep-water port” used for the Black Sea differs from the ones used for open ocean areas, as the navigation in the Black Sea is limited by the Bosporus Strait’s reliable navigation restrictions. [11] In the Black Sea eleven ports [12], including Batumi can be labelled as deep-water. In Addition, Batumi will only appear in this list due to its port breakwater of 14.5 m minimum depth (see here, pic. 2).

The matter is that the single buoy mooring (SBM) of Batumi is in the open sea, outside the port area and is envisaged only for crude oil transportation and is not suitable for dry cargo, especially for container ship service. The latter requires that the ship stands directly next to the quay wall. Therefore, container ship services use only those ports in the Black Sea that can be called “deep-water ports”, which have an appropriately designed quay wall, with berths of 13 meters depth. Currently there is no such port in Georgia.

Nowadays, the growth of freight transportation in the Black Sea is mainly due to dry cargo and container shipments. In August 2014, CMA CGM DANUBE [13] the Chinese container ship made by the Dalian Shipbuilding Imp & Exp Co, with a capacity of about 10 thousand TEU [14] has been by far the largest container ship ever to enter the Black Sea. The ship belongs to the French CMA CGM company (ship parking in Marseille) and is one of the 28 ships with 10000 TEU capacity. They have been put into operation since 2014-2017 and are currently used by a new China to Europe container route “Bosporus Express” (BEX, pic. 5). This route is a component of "One Belt, One Road” Chinese initiative.

In April 12, 2018, Danish “Maersk Line” Company’s container ship “Maersk Klaipeda” with a capacity of 10000 TEU, entered the Yuzhny seaport. This entrance of “Klaipeda” to the Yuzhny seaport marked the launch of the Maersk Line company's container ship Maersk МЕ3 new route [15].

Pic. 5. The western (blue) and the eastern (red) parts of Franco-Chinese “Bosporus Express” (BEX) container route. Source: CMA CGM

Since 2014, the Black Sea has become a global container shipping platform and the world’s leading container shipping companies include the Black Sea and its straits in the new routes with ship capacities of 10000 TEU. The driving force of all of this is the growth in container shipments to China, India and Middle East countries.

There is an intense competition between the main deep-water ports of the Black Sea (Constanta, Odessa-Yuzhny, Novorossiysk). Moreover, the geo-economic competition between the Russian “Northern Arctic Route” and Chinese “One Belt, One Road” initiatives is noticeable in the strategic perspective [16]. It’s also noticed the US geopolitical reaction to Chinese expansion in the region.

Georgia is left out of these processes because of the lack of a real deep-sea port. It’s likely that one of the reasons for the implementation of the Anaklia deep-sea port project is the desire to be involved in these agreements. 

In the first stage of the “Anaklia” deep-sea port project (2020-2028), it is planned to build a berth of 1.5 km length and 3-7m height in the northern part of the future port, which will protect it from the northern waves. It’s also envisaged to build the first part of a quay wall with 600m length and 3.5 meters above the sea level (pic. 6), along with  two quays with a 17.1m depth. Furthermore, an implementation of hydraulic works of the port turning circle to a 300m radius and at least a 17.6m deep port.

Pic. 6. The first stage of the Anaklia Deep Sea Port project (2020-2028). Depths (-) and heights (+) in meters, according to the Baltic Altitude System. Source [1]

The quay wall is envisaged to be extended by another 1900 meters by 2069, in the 2-9th stages of the project, this will allow the ability to add the number of quays, as well as to build 2 breakwaters.

Financial component

T he implementation of Lazika project was envisaged to require about 200 mil. lari, which was about $120 mil. in 2012. This was quite an optimistic assumption, but even then the funds weren’t allocated for the project between the years of 2012-2013 because of the unstable political situation in Georgia. According to the press release the President of Georgia in September 2012, mentioned the cost of the project will be 535mil. lari ($323 mil.) and that the construction was going to be completed by 2015. Later it turned out that these estimates related only to the new city’s construction and another $600-900 mil. was to be required for port construction. Hence, the total cost of the project should of been estimated at more than $1.0 bil.

On October 1, 2013, on the eve of the presidential elections in Georgia, the Prime Minister of Georgia B. Ivanashvili officially presented “Georgian Co-Investment Fund” (GCF, Фонд соинвестирования Грузии)[17], which was going to finance the construction of the Anaklia Deep Sea Port project. The fund’s capital was planned at $6 bil., with $1 bil. invested by B. Ivanashvili and another $5 bil. to be invested by the state oil fund of Azerbaijan (SOFAZ), the “Abu Dhabi Group” and the “RAK Investment Authority” from the UAE, the Turkish holding “Ahmad Chalik Investment”, the sovereign fund from China “Milestone International Holdings Group”, the Georgian subsidiary of Kazakhstan's “KazTransOil” company’s – “KazTransOil Batumi Industrial Holdings Limited”, as well as Kazakh businessman Alexei Mashkevich and the family of the late Georgian billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili. During the presentation of the Foundation, the Prime Minister of Georgia Ivanashvili expressed his confidence, that over the next 4 years, the foundation will invest about $10 bil. into the Georgian economy.

On March 17, 2019, the fund only accrued an investment of about $2 bil. for the construction of the Mtkvari Hydroelectric Power Station and the Panorama Tbilisi hotel complex [18]. Whereas it didn’t allocate any capital for the Anaklia Port project.

In 2016, the Anaklia Development Consortium the main participant of which was Georgian TBC Holding, became the winner of the tender for the construction of Anaklia Port, announced by the Georgian Government. Mamuka Khazaradze, the founder of the largest Georgian TBS Bank, was elected as the president of the Consortium. In November 2017, it became known that TBC Holding involved the US engineering company Conti International as the main contractor of the project. However, on August 19, 2019, Vonti decided to leave the project. The source didn’t mention the reasons for Venti’s departure, only quoting about the lack of congruity between the Georgian Government and the international financial institutions supporting the implementation of the project. This situation makes the prospect of the whole initiative vague. The message also points to the tangible reaction of Russia and China to the Anaklia project [19], as well as the tendency of the Georgian Government to realize the Poti port’s reconstruction and the development of the deep-water part instead of Anaklia.

In August 2019, the Anaklia Development Consortium updated its website, where you can find remarkable data on recent developments. As of August 6, 2019, the US “SSA Marine”, British “Wondernet Express” companies and Bulgarian investment company “G-Star” are involved in the Anaklia Development Consortium [20]. According to the Consortium report, the Anaklia project will cost $2.5 bil.

Furthermore, the website states that the current Chairman of the Consortium Mamuka Khazaradze and the Vice-Chairman Badri Japaridze will resign from the board. R. Michael Cowgill, President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia, Ted Jonas, Senior Counsel with the international law firm Dentons and Jean-Patrick Voisin President of Concorde Capital will replace them. Finally, the French engineering company Eiffage SA is the general construction contractor for the Anaklia Port project. On January 9, 2019, the Georgian Chief Prosecutor’s Office raised a case against Chairmans of the consortium M. Khazaradze and B. Japaridze on a $16.7 mil. money laundering charge. On October 10, 2019, a pre-trial hearing on this case were held in Tbilisi’s City Court.

Finally, on September 12, 2019, M. Khazaradze announced in the city of Anaklia, that he will be creating the “Lelo” [21] public movement, which will soon be transformed into a political party and will participate in the 2020 parliamentary elections in Georgia. According to numerous publications (see here and here), the “Lelo” intends to support the “protest of the young Georgian generation against the occupation and violence” by gathering around him “the advocates of the modern western statehood”. The “Lelo” is expected to become a competitor to the ruling “Georgian Dream” party in the upcoming elections.

  1. Anaklia Deep Sea Port: Environmental Impact Assessment. Anaklia Development Consortium. Prepared by: Royal HaskoningDHV. September, 2017.
  2. Anaklia Deep Sea Port: Environmental and Social Management System. Anaklia Development Consortium. Prepared by: Royal HaskoningDHV. January, 2018.

[2] Currently, there are 4 Georgian acting ports: ports of Batumi and Poti, terminals of Supsa and Kulev. Another 4 ports are on the Black Sea coast of Abkhazia.

[3] “National Movement” party led by Sahakashvili was defeated during the parliamentary elections of October 11, 2012. On May 21, 2013, Merabishvili was arrested and sentenced to 8 years imprisonment. G. Margvelashvili, the member of the “Georgian Dream” coalition led by B. Ivanishvili won the presidential elections of Georgia on October 27, 2013. On October 29, 2013, M. Sahakashvili left Georgia.

[4] The Abkhazian side vies it as an interstate border, whereas the Georgian side as an administrative border.

[5] It is about the territory of Abkhazia.

[6] ԱՄՆ-ում 2001-ի սեպտեմբերյան ահաբեկչությունից հետո, թալիբների և Ալ-Քաիդայի հետ հակամարտության ընթացքում ԱՄՆ-Պակիստան հարաբերությունների վատթարացմանը համընթաց «Հարավային մատակարարման համակարգը» դարձավ ոչ հուսալի և կորցրեց իր օպերատիվ նշանակությունը։ Փոխարենն աճեց  «Հյուսիսային մատակարարման համակարգի» դերակատարությունը։ Սակայն 2007-ից ՌԴ-ի և ԱՄՆ-ի հակասությունների պատճառով սահմանափակվում է նաև այս համակարգի գործունեությունը, որը կասեցվում է 2015թ. մայիսի 15-ին։

[7] You can learn more about the “Tier” project here, p. 14-25.

[8] «I communicated our hope that Georgia completes the Port project. The project and others will enhance Georgia’s relationship with free economies and prevent Georgia from falling prey to Russian or Chinese economic influence. Those pretended friends do not have Georgia’s best interests at heart»։ On June 14, 2019, MFA of Russia expressed its uncertainty about M. Pompeo’s statement.

[9] The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat. February 2, 1971, Ramsar, Islamic Republic of Iran.

[10] Г. И. Шамов, Речные наносы. Режим, расчеты и методы измерений. Ленинград, 1959.

[11] The Dardanelles Strait is deeper and wider.

[12] Those are. Russian Novorossiysk, Taman (Тамань) and Tuapse (Туапсе) ports, Romanian Konstanz (Констанца), Turkish Erdemir (Эрдемир) and Rize(Ризе), Bulgarian Burgas (Бургас), Ukrainian Yuzhny (Южный), Ilyichevsk (Ильичевск) and Odessa ports, as well as Batumi.

[13] Length 300 m, width 48.2 m, maximum diving 14.8 m, capacity 9400 TEU, water capacity (DWT) 112.6 thous. tons.

[14] TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) –of 6.1 m length and 2.59 m height standard intermodal container. TEU is a unit used for calculating the loading capacity of a container ship and for formulating their transport capacity.

[15] Pipavav–Hazira-Jawaharlal Nehru-Jebell Ali–Salalah-Port Said-Ambarli–Izmit–Korfezi-Constanta- Novorossiysk–Yuzhny–Chernomorsk.

[16] On August 23, 2019, the CEO of the CMA CGM Rodolphe Saadé announced, that the company is not going to use the Northern Arctic route, which Russia promotes actively as an alternative route to global maritime trade.

[17] The website was under construction at the time of writing this article.

[18] According to our estimates, the construction of Mtkvari HPP will cost $90-120 mil. It’s less probable that Tbilisi Panorama Complex cost $1.88 bil.

[19] International financial 4 structures, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the US government’s “The Overseas Private Investment Corporation” agency, “The Asian Development Bank” (ADB), and “Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank” (AIIB) are the Anaklia project’s donors.

[20] On January 19, 2019, “Wondernet Express” company jointly with Trammo Inc. company signed a contract for installation of an enterprise, which should implement the construction of a new terminal in the port of Batumi.

[21] Georgian folk sport game similar to rugby.