MRDI Doubts Anaklia Port Will Stick to Construction Timeline

Construction on the scandal-bound Anakla Port project is scheduled to begin in January. The Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure (MRDI) has said it doubts that timeline, however. On Wednesday, July 31, the Anaklia Development Consortium (ADC) released a statement implying that although it missed deadlines for funding, the terms of construction and opening of the port will not be adversely affected.

MRDI called their bluff, releasing a statement of their own saying, “The last schedule presented to the ministry by the Consortium, saying that the construction of the port will be completed in June of 2022 instead of the announced 2020, confirms [that they are behind schedule]. Unfortunately, despite unprecedented support from the government, the investor has so far failed to obtain approval from international financial institutions to lend $400 million to the Anaklia Development Consortium and to raise an additional $120 million in capital. The deadline for obtaining the funding has been postponed several times and the Consortium has to meet this obligation by the end of 2019. Taking the current situation into account, it seems it will be difficult for the consortium to obtain the funding and to start the construction in January 2020.”

Also on Wednesday, Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure and Vice Prime Minister Maia Tskitishvili told reporters that, in her opinion, the Anaklia Port project should be run by TBC-Anaklia Holding, and should not be conflated with TBC Bank. The issue was raised in light of last week’s charges of money laundering brought against the owner of TBC Holding, high-profile businessman Mamuka Khazaradze and his TBC co-founder Badri Japaridze. They are accused by the Georgian Prosecutor’s Office of laundering $16.7 mln in 2007-2008 – a charge both men adamantly deny.

“It has been repeatedly asked and I will reiterate: the [Anaklia Port] project will definitely be implemented regardless of whether or not the Anaklia Development Consortium meets its obligations. We do not want the time and effort that the government, donors, and the consortium have put into this project to be lost...the consortium needs to fulfill its obligations [to secure funding] instead of [engaging in] political speculation,” Tskitishvili added.

Earlier in the week, Khazaradze and Japaridze announced that they would leave their posts on the Anaklia Board of Governors. Khazaradze told reporters that they made the decision to protect the activities of the Anaklia Development Consortium, as he believes that the government is directly working against the Anaklia Port project.

“Badri and I decided to hold a press conference in the next week and announce changes in the Anaklia Board of Governors. I will leave the chairman’s position and Badri will resign as deputy chairman to end speculations once and for all,” explained Khazaradze.

The plan for a deep-sea port in Anaklia, located about 140 kilometers north of Batumi by car, just south of the border with occupied Abkhazia, has been discussed since Soviet times. The Georgian government awarded the Anaklia Development Consortium, a joint venture of TBC Holding and Conti International, the contract to develop the Anaklia deep-sea port in 2016. It is estimated that the project will cost $2.5 billion.

Commenting on the complex situation last week, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Natia Turnava said that the Anaklia Deep Sea Port will not be hindered by the charges against Khazaradze, and that the public should wait for the courts’ decision on the matter. “As we have repeatedly stated, the Anaklia project is a very high-level priority for our country. We definitely need a deep-water port in Anaklia, which has unprecedented support from the state. Therefore, nothing threatens this project,” said Turnava.

By Samantha Guthrie

Image source: ADC

01 August 2019 17:48