Representatives of the Ukrainian Ministry of Infrastructure have held talks with representatives of the Georgian Ministry of Economy and the Georgian Railways in Tbilisi, during which the possibility of establishing a joint venture for operating Ukrainian ferries on the Black Sea was discussed. Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Infrastructure Viktor Dovhan announced this to the CFTS portal.

According to him, the issues discussed included an initiative that Ukraine’s Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman announced at a meeting with the heads of the railways of Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Kazakhstan in April. Creation of joint venture for development of the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route was proposed at the time. The possibility of creating a joint venture that would allow implementation of the ‘single window’ principle during the handling of goods being transported along this route was discussed.

Dovhan said that the issue of joint management of ferries was also discussed in this context.

However, "we see that there are no initiatives on a ferry from the Kazakh side at all. Azerbaijan is also not particularly interested. Rauf Valiyev (the board chairman of CJSC Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping Company) is saying that they are not very interested in our ferries because they are large and fuel-intensive. If they operated on the Black Sea, then it would be with smaller ferries similar to the ones they are operating on the Caspian," Dovhan said. Accordingly, according to him, Ukraine must reach agreement on this issue with Georgia. However, it is important for Ukraine to understand “what Georgian partners can offer.”

Dovhan also said that the Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping Company would participate in a concession competition for the Black Sea ferry crossing. "We have two strong candidates there: Azerbaijani and Chinese companies," Dovhan said.

As the CFTS previously reported, the Illichivsk Illichivsk (Chornomorsk) shipyard recently completed the repair of the Heroes of Shipka ferry, which is managed by the Ukrainian Railways public joint-stock company (Ukrzaliznytsia). The the Liski Transport Service Center, which is a logistics subsidiary of Ukrzaliznytsia, intends to operate this ferry and the Heroes of Plevna ferry on the Trans-Caspian route. The ferries are to be operated on the Chornomorsk-Poti/Batumi line.

Ukrzaliznytsia’s Board Chairman Wojciech Balczun has said that Ukrzaliznytsia intends to transfer these ferries to a third-party company on bareboat charter. Dovhan said in March 2017 that the Heroes of Shipka ferry would be transferred to a third-party company via a competition.

The Ministry of Infrastructure plans to invite tenders for lease of the ferry complex at the Chornomorsk port in early September or earlier. One of the contenders is the China Road and Bridge Corporation, representatives of which recently visited the Chornomorsk port.