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Turkmenistan opens new $1.5 billion port, the world’s largest below sea level

posted onMay 3, 2018
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Turkmenistan, a country at the crossroads of civilisations for centuries, has opened a new port on the shores of the Caspian Sea in a bid to boost economy and exports. The port, in the city of Turkmenbashi,  is a "sea gate", linking Central Asia to Europe by sea, road and rail routes and serves as a major transit hub in the region. 

The project, completed at a 1.3 billion EUR budget, was realised by the Turkish company "Gap Inşaat" and should triple Turkmenistan’s cargo-handling capacity to 25-26 million tonnes a year according to the government.

At the official opening ceremony on May 2, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov said the port would “enhance Turkmenistan's role as an important centre for transit communications.” He also said Ashgabat is ready to discuss use of the seaport with its landlocked neighbours, in a reference to Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, providing them a vital maritime transport link.

Berdymukhammedov expressed the confidence that new port would give additional strong impulse to the economic progress of Turkmenistan, to the development of industrial and transport infrastructure of the region and to the creation of new working places as well as attracting big investments.

PricewaterhouseCoopers gave Berdymukhammedov an award recognizing the Turkmenbashi port  as “the best seaport.”

Turkmenistan President

(Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov Photo Credit: Turkmenistan Government)

The new port covers an area of ​​over 1.3 million square meters and includes ferry, passenger and cargo terminals-with 1.1 miles of berths designed to serve 17 vessels at once- and a shipyard. The facilities will be able to service 300,000 passengers, 75,000 trailer trucks, and 400,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) containers a year while the shipyard has the capacity to process 12,000 tons of steel per year. 

Called “Balkan”, the ship building and repair facility  will be able to construct 4–6 vessels annually with application of modern technologies and automatic systems meeting international standards. It can also provide maintenance facilities for another 20–30 ships per year, allowing for repair works to be carried out on tankers, bulk carriers and tugboats. 

Turkmenistan already has a railway link with China through neighbouring Kazakhstan and the new port could help Ashgabat win a slice of cargo flows moving between China, the Middle East and Europe. Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Iran also have Caspian ports. Although it has no outlets to the world's oceans, the 1,000-kilometer long Caspian Sea is an important thoroughfare for trade and passengers in the region. 

If the new facility's estimated annual throughput of 25 million tons of cargo is utilised, it will make it the Caspian’s largest port.