China Wins Bid to Build Georgia's New Black Sea Container Port

Consortium led by state-owned CCCC was the only bidder with a complete proposal

A previous concept for the port's development, released for a contract that was canceled in 2020 (ADC)

Published May 30, 2024 7:26 PM by The Maritime Executive

The government of Georgia has awarded a 49 percent stake in the future Black Sea port of Anaklia to a Chinese consortium led by state-owned China Communications Construction Company (CCCC). The project will have a container throughput of 600,000 TEU per year, which will support a long-planned "Middle Corridor" of multimodal transport connecting China to Europe. 

A Swiss consortium also entered the bidding, but never submitted its final proposal, according to Georgian economy minister Levan Davitashvili. 

"This is not the first important investment project from China to Georgia, but I believe it’ll be a milestone for our cooperation within the framework of the Belt and Road initiative," said Chinese Ambassador to Georgia Zhou Qian in a statement.

CCCC's partners include China Harbour Investment Pte., China Road and Bridge Corporation and Qingdao Port International Co. The full details of the agreement with CCCC will be disclosed soon, the Georgian government said.

"The application is complete, the relevant bank guarantees have been presented," Davitashvili said. "In a few days, we will have clarifications, after which the Chinese consortium will be announced as the winner."

The Georgian government claims that CCCC is not sanctioned by the U.S. government, and a top official told local media that reports to the contrary were "a lie." 

In 2020, CCCC was sanctioned by the U.S. Commerce Department for its role in building artificial islands in Philippine waters, and in the following year it was designated by the U.S. Treasury as an element of the Chinese military-industrial complex. Taken together, these sanctions imposed limited restrictions on investing in CCCC, or sending exports or technology transfers to CCCC. These measures are still in place, but they only cover certain types of transactions, and Georgia noted that the restrictions "do not prevent others from purchasing services or goods from CCCC."

Ambassador Zhou noted that U.S.-backed civil society groups in Georgia have raised concerns about Chinese involvement in the project. "I think that if you look back at some disinformation about the CCCC, made by some so-called think tanks, which is financed by Taiwan and the United States, you can see why such disinformation was spread," he said. 

A previous plan to build a port at Anaklia was launched in 2017, with participation from TBC Holding, SSA Marine, British Wondernet Express, and G-Star Ltd. The contract ran into controversy related to the finances of its local backers, and it was ultimately canceled by the government.