Black Sea ferry can bring Caspian oil to Ukraine and the West

Dec 16, 1996 01:00 AM

Ukraine, Georgia and Azerbaijan opened a new Black Sea ferry link recently, marking the start of a Euro-Asian Transport Corridor (EATC) aimed at bringing Caspian oil to the West. Ministers from the three countries signed deals in Ukraine's Black Sea port of Odessa to open the link between the nearby port of Illichyovsk and the Georgian port of Poti and avoiding Russian territory. The ferry link can bring oil to Ukraine, which is heavily dependent on Russian oil supplies. The link is also a breakthrough for Georgia, largely isolated since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 by years of conflict with separatists in the Transcaucasus republic. The deal will allow dry cargoes to be transported at first. But a new railway connection which can carry oil will be added in September next year. An oil terminal with early capacity of 40 mmt is under construction at Pivdenny near Odessa but funds have been slow to reach the $300 mm project. Georgian experts say that once construction at an oil terminal in Batumi is complete, 25 mmt (500,000 bpd) of Azeri oil could be delivered a year to Ukraine. Kiev currently imports 35 to 40 million tonnes (700,000 to 800,000 bpd) of oil a year, more than 30 million tonnes of it from Russia. Cargo volumes via the new link should be 3 to 5 million tonnes (60,000 to 100,000 bpd) a year in the near future, reaching 20 mmt (400,000 bpd) by 2000 and more than 30 mmt (600,000 bpd) by 2010. Ukrferry, which will serve the route, plans to open another ferry link next month between Skadovsk and Poti and has already been serving a route between Illichyovsk and Bulgaria's Varna. The Illichyovst-Poti route leads on to a connection between the Azeri capital and the port of Turkmenbashi in Turkmenistan with onward links to Iran, the rest of Central Asia and China.

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