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Turkmenbashi port in Turkmenistan – another megalomaniac project or a new Silk Road winner

Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan (PortSEurope) November 9, 2018 – In a rare acknowledgment of problems with one of his ambitious billion dollar projects, last month the President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said that the new international Caspian Sea port Turkmenbashi (former Krasnovodsk) doesn’t operate at full capacity.

The new port (Türkmenbaşy halkara deňizporty in Turkmen language), the biggest in Turkmenistan and the biggest port in the world below sea level, was inaugurated in May 2018, after five years of construction which cost the government budget over $1.5 billion (€1.32 billion).

This investment is still to prove its commercial value. The isolated and authoritarian Turkmenistan has difficulties attracting transit cargo for the port. Its outdated industry is also not capable of exporting competitive goods. The only chance for the port to become a successful investment is its inclusion in China’s new Silk Road – the Belt and Road initiative.

The new port, built by Turkish firm GAP İnşaat, covers over 152 hectares and includes ferry, passenger and cargo terminals. Its berths have a total length of 1,800 m and can service 18 ships simultaneously. The port can handle 300,000 passengers, 75,000 vehicles and 400,000 TEU per year. Its total cargo capacity is 17 million tonnes (excluding the oil products).

A shipbuilding and ship repair plant called Balkan was constructed as part of the port. It can process 12,000 tonnes of steel needed for the building of four ships and the repair of 20. Turkmenistan also intends for the port to be part of regional transport corridors, including having a role in China’s new Silk Road. Hotels and a shopping and entertainment centre are also part of the port complex. In May, Annadurd Kosiaev was appointed  head of the new port.

Oleg Sysolyatin, Head of Break Bulk Division of Swiss-registered company AsstrA (AsstrA-Associated Traffic AG), describes the region’s largest infrastructure investment: “This project has a striking modernity. The port is completely ready to achieve ambitious plans. The terminal has a bulk load conveyor system for unloading wagons and loading vessels. The project will open new logistics prospects for the transport industry, improve the region’s transport infrastructure, and strengthen Turkmenistan’s international relations in the process”.

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