Idea for Ferry Service Floated Between Georgia & EU

Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Giorgi Kobulia has announced that, after a meeting with an international shipping company, the discussion of a ferry line between Georgia and the European Union has been renewed. Swedish marine shipping company Stena Rederi AB has expressed interest in developing a ferry route between Georgia’s Black Sea coast and a European Union port on the other side.

The European Union port could be in either Romania or Bulgaria. Ferries have intermittently connected Bulgaria and Georgia for the last two decades. Currently, regular ship traffic travels between Bulgaria and Georgia, including a ferry between Batumi and Burgas, Bulgaria, used primarily by truck drivers accompanying their payloads.

In 2013, a delegation of the Ministry of Transport of Romania visited the ports of Batumi and Poti and held a bilateral working meeting on the subject of reopening a ferry service between Constanta, Romania, and Georgia. Then-Deputy Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, Natia Mikeladze, and Marian Buica, then-State Secretary of the Ministry of Transport of Romania, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on “Cooperation of the Ministry of Transport of Romania and Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia in the field of Ferry transport.” The Embassy of Romania in Georgia said that the memorandum would “promote reopening the ferry service between the ports of the countries that will boost the increase of turnover and the development of Georgian transit potential, the precondition for creating new jobs.” But no ferry ever came of the agreement.

Last week, Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze and Minister Kobulia expressed similar optimistic sentiments after a meeting with Stena Rederi AB CEO Carl Johan Hagman while at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The meeting touched on issues related to Georgia’s maritime potential, noting that a ferry service could increase interest in the region from major global transportation companies in Europe and Asia, drawing attention to Georgia as a transit hub by sea as well as by land, said the Ministry of Economy.

“A ferry service with Europe will significantly increase the transit potential of Georgia and will make the European market much more accessible for Georgian producers,” said Kobulia.

The announcement is part of a broader pattern of focus on naval and maritime economic activities by the Georgian government. While in Davos, Kobulia also met with the chairman of one of the largest conglomerates in The Netherlands, Kommer Damen of Damen Shipyards. According to the Ministry of Economy, the pair discussed Georgia’s current and planned coastal infrastructure projects, accompanied by Giorgi Bachiashvili, Executive Director of the Co-investment Fund of Georgia. Kobulia emphasized that Georgia welcomes new investments in its ports. For his part, Damen expressed his company’s interest in cooperating with Georgia, and raised the topic of finding qualified staff to hire, including the potential of offering vocational training courses. After the meeting, Kobulia confirmed that Damen Shipyards is interested in opening a shipbuilding and repair workshop in Georgia. “This will facilitate the increase of employment in the very sector and help us to better contribute from being the seafaring country,” said Kobulia.

In an October 2018 meeting between the Foreign Ministries of Georgia and Bulgaria in Sofia, the counterparts made special mention of the transport and energy potential of the two countries, due to their strategic locations, to link Europe and Asia. In this context, they stressed the need to bolster and expand ferry traffic between Georgian and Bulgarian ports and to establish new routes.

By Samantha Guthrie

Image source: Vesselfinder

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