Nov. 12 – The proposal to build a Eurasia Canal for ships to traverse between the Caspian and Black Seas was presented to the Board of Directors of the Hellenic Shortsea Shipowners Association in Piraeus, Greece, on Nov. 8. The idea was depicted by Dean Andromidas, representative of the Schiller Institute and the EIR Strategic Alert, who spoke for 20 minutes and then fielded questions from board members.
The Eurasia Canal was first proposed by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2007. The project calls for a 750-km cement-lined canal across the Manych Depression in the Russian Caucasus. It would have five locks and accommodate ships of the Handymax class of up to 35,000 DWT, thus for the first time introducing ships of this class to the Caspian Sea.
According to studies by the Chinese Sinohydro company, a potential of 120 million tons of cargo could pass through the canal, including hydrocarbons from the Caspian Sea region, which accounts for 6-10% of the world’s oil reserves. It would also carry other bulk cargo, including grain and mineral resources. The container traffic from China could amount to as much as 24-30 million tons. This compares with the 101 km Volga-Don Canal, which has a capacity of only 15 million tons, accommodating ships no larger than 5,000 DWT.
By opening up all of Central Asia to maritime shipping, the Eurasia Canal would create a new economic development corridor stretching from the port of Lianyungang in China on the Yellow Sea, through Urumqi in China’s westernmost Xinjiang province, to the port of Aktau on the Caspian in Kazakhstan, through to the Black Sea and into the Aegean Sea, right on Greece’s maritime doorstep. This is a region comprising more than 11 countries and more than 1 billion people. The canal would be an important contribution to the ongoing Belt and Road Initiative composed of the Economic Silk Road Belt and Maritime New Silk Road integrating Eurasia and Africa.
Questions posed by the participants demonstrated a lively interest in the project. Many of them, who were already active in the shipping sector on the Caspian and also the Danube, quickly grasped the potential for such a channel. While one might have expected concerns about the costs of such a project, none were raised. One participant said, the real issue is the will among the concerned nations to build the project. As for financing, the participant pointed to China and how it is able to mobilize financing for major projects after it had made the decision to go ahead.