China Could Be Showing Interest in Building a Eurasia Canal, Linking Caspian Sea and Black Sea
May 6, 2020 (EIRNS)—Are Russia and China preparing to build the Eurasia Canal to link the Caspian Sea with the Black Sea and thereby the world’s oceans? Certain developments point in that direction. The most recent indication of China’s interest is a report in March that two leading Chinese state engineering corporations, the Poly Group and the China Energy Engineering Group International, have signed a preliminary agreement to design and build a port at Lagan, on the western side of the Caspian Sea in the Russian Republic of Kalmykia. Lagan is the point where the eastern entrance to the proposed Eurasia Canal would be located.
Speaking at a press conference in early March, Batu Khasikov, head of the Russian Kalmykia Republic, said that not only were these two Chinese companies interested, but that Iranian companies have also shown interest in developing the port. Khasikov said the port would have a capacity of 22.5 million tons of cargo per year, which is three times more than the capacity of all Russian ports on the sea and could significantly expand cargo flow between Russia and Iran. The project would cost $1.6 billion to construct. The port would have a depth of 13 meters, which is twice the depth of any port on the sea and would indicate that a new and larger class of Caspian class ships is in the planning.
The report has generated speculation that the Chinese are also seriously interested in building the Eurasia canal. It should be noted that Russia intends to greatly develop the Caspian Sea including its hydrocarbon development and as part of developing the transportation corridor between Russia, China, Iran, India, Pakistan and the Persian Gulf states. In order for that to happen, Russia has to deal with various bottlenecks in this part of the Federation. Renovation of Russia’s Caspian Sea ports is part of the implementation of its “Strategy for the Development of Seaports in the Caspian Sea” approved back in 2017, which includes developing the ports of Astrakhan, Olya Mahachkala and Kaspiysk.
Another bottleneck is the highway system which is being greatly improved through the Volgograd Highway bypass, which is part of a larger new highway section with a total length of 71.4 km. Located at the confluence of the Volga River and the Volga-Don Canal, it lies just above the Caspian and will greatly facilitate cargo traffic in the region which forms the link between Central Asia and Russia. It has an estimated cost of $290 million. The Volga-Don Canal, which connects the Caspian with the Black Sea via connecting the Volga and Don Rivers, is itself a bottleneck, its double locks and water depth limitations causing long delays for ships. Another bottleneck is the fact that the class of ships on both the Caspian and the Russian river-canal waterway system has been limited to the so-called river-sea class of about 5,000 tons, which are too small to accommodate future traffic flows.
The best solution would be a new Eurasian Canal, as proposed in the Schiller Institute’s The New Silk Road Becomes the World Land-Bridge.