Port of Batumi, Georgia Photo: © Tetiana Vychegzhanina |


Georgian container terminals at Poti and Batumi, situated on the east coast of the Black Sea, showed remarkable results for 2023.

The market has shown particularly active growth since the beginning of the Russian war on Ukraine. According to Informall BG data, prior to the Russian invasion in February 2022, Georgia’s container market experienced a decline between 2020 and 2022. However, since the beginning of the war, container turnover in the port of Poti began rapidly growing, reaching a little over 700,000 teu in 2023 – up 50,000 on its previous record in 2020. A number of factors played a role in this growth.

Logistics bottlenecks for Chinese shippers

International sanctions imposed on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine made it challenging to move containers via the Russian Trans-Siberian Railway, which connects China with the EU via the TIRT (Trans-Caspian International Transport Route) or the Middle Corridor. The Middle Corridor, under development for several years, became one of the few alternatives for Chinese shippers.

Supporting the development of the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, a Chinese consortium led by state-owned China Communications Construction Co (CCCC) made an agreement with the government of Georgia, which resulted in a 49% stake in the future Black Sea port of Anaklia to a Chinese consortium. The project will have a container throughput of 600,000 teu a year, which will support a long-planned ‘Middle Corridor’ of multimodal transport connecting China to Europe via the Georgian Black Sea ports.

Notably, the Romanian port of Constanta, located on the Black Sea and serving as one of the entry points to the EU under the Middle Corridor, has received an investment from port operator DP World: €65m ($71m) will be invested in a new multi-transport platform in Constanta, planned to open in 2025 and includes a project cargo terminal and a new ro-ro terminal. Additionally, DP World is launching its third new facility in Aiud, in the industrial heartland of Romania, which is now home to a new 8ha intermodal logistics hub connecting rail and road, potentially boosting Middle Corridor capacity as an alternative to Russian logistics routes.


Photo: Wikipedia

While much attention is given to the corridor’s function as a land bridge between China and Europe, its importance as a regional trade route for the countries it crosses cannot be overstated. The rising trade volumes between Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Europe are major factors driving this demand. According to the World Bank projections, a 37% increase in trade among Azerbaijan, Georgia and Kazakhstan, and a 28% increase between these nations and the EU, is expected by 2030. And Georgia’s ports are the main gateways for the upcoming cargo.

Finally, the sanctions caused many shipping lines to withdraw from the Russian market, resulting in container traffic moving via alternative routes of Georgian ports, delivering containers in transit by road and rail to their final destination, which has contributed significantly to the total annual volumes. Such a situation can be compared with the Romanian spike in volumes when Ukrainian territorial waters were blocked and inaccessible for vessels, with container traffic diverted to the nearest port, Constanta, resulting in significant growth.


Despite the invasion of Ukraine and subsequent international sanctions, the Russian market demonstrated 20% growth between 2022 and 2023, reaching a turnover of 1m teu in the port of Novorossiysk on the Black Sea. Most global shipping lines withdrew from the Russian market following the invasion of Ukraine, with the exception of MSC, whose volumes have continued to grow since 2022. This vacuum was swiftly filled by Turkish and Asian carriers, as well as new Russian carriers formed from various domestic logistics companies.

Outstanding results were shown by Russian-owned Ruscon, part of the Delo Group, entering the container shipping market following Delo’s acquisition of Maersk’s (APMT’s) 30.75% shareholding in Global Port Investments in Russia. Notably, the share transaction includes an option for APMT to re-enter the partnership with Delo Group in the future. Ruscon benefits from priority access to the NUTEP container terminal in Novorossiysk, which is owned and operated by Delo. Having access to that group’s logistics resources, along with the rising market demand due to the exit of global carriers from the Russian market, allowed Ruscon to quickly gain momentum in Novorossiysk and acquire around 30% of the market.

While carriers from Turkey and Russia were not able to fully compensate for all the previous global liner services in Russia, the market conditions created opportunities for business growth and service development in the liner industry. As Russia explores alternative import/export cargo destinations to make up for the lost European market, there are liner operators ready to accommodate the demand, despite international sanctions. The list of alternative Russian markets includes, but is not limited to, South-east Asian countries (Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand), India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, which now have well-established logistics connections with Russia. More recently, containers have reached South American countries, with cargo moving on both ends.

Importantly, the estimated 1m teu turnover on the Black Sea does not include transit cargo moving via alternative non-Russian ports. As sanctions have primarily affected the banking system, making transactions difficult or impossible, Russian businesses have established a presence in neighbouring countries, such as Georgia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkey, to ensure trade stability.

In many cases, containerised import cargo reaching alternative ports is transferred to trucks for further overland transportation to Russia. Although this logistics model increases costs, importantly it allows for continued international trade.

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