Georgia’s strategic location on the eastern edge of the Black Sea has made it particularly crucial for the Middle Corridor to take off and has pushed connectivity to the top of the country’s foreign policy agenda.
But the country has a dearth of high-quality infrastructure that has so far held back its transit potential, with long lines of trucks at its borders and ports at Batumi and Poti operating near capacity as trade along the route has steadily increased since 2022.
If successful, it could revolutionize Georgia’s role as a key transit point between Europe and Asia and loosen the country’s status as a bottleneck for global trade.
The mega-project’s future is also caught up in political controversy at home and geopolitical jostling abroad over who will build it.
This could have far-reaching fallout for Tbilisi as it seeks candidate status with the European Union and has been worrying Brussels by building closer ties with Russia in recent years while also increasingly turning to Chinese companies to build its large-scale infrastructure.
With the bidding process opened, Anaklia could become an important bellwether to determine if Georgia continues down a path of further integration with the European Union and the West or pivots toward closer ties with Russia and China.
Several international companies have expressed their interest toward the project, including a consortium consisting of several companies, Javakhadze said in e-mailed comments that did not say which companies submitted bids.
Once selected, the deep-sea port would take years to be completed and likely cost billions of dollars. In the meantime, attention is focused on which companies — and their country of origin — will be selected.
Chinese firms are particularly emerging as potential bidders.
Chinese companies had previously approached Khazaradze’s consortium about building the port and interest in Georgia has only grown since the disruption to reliable trade routes due to the war in Ukraine.
During an interview in late 2022, Zhou Qian, China’s ambassador to Tbilisi, said Anaklia was important for the success of the Middle Corridor and that the embassy would encourage Chinese firms to place bids.
Tbilisi’s interest in China appears to be growing, too, with Garibashvili upgrading Georgia’s ties with Beijing to a strategic partnership during a July trip to Chengdu — a development that has only added to speculation that a Chinese-led bid could be chosen to build the port.
Oil Price.com / ABC Flash Point News 2023.