Top 5 Black Sea Ports

Hard-pressed Harbors in Wartime

The Black Sea, surrounded by six countries and boasting a gateway to high seas, is a water body of major geopolitical importance. This is a list of five interesting ports serving it.

Some say it is called the Black Sea because of its ferocious, unforgiving storms which troubled the early sailors from Asia Minor navigating their way across its waters.

The Black Sea has been talked about in media over the past few years mainly because of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, starting with the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and continuing with the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

In addition to these two countries, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Georgia have Black Sea coastlines. All of these countries use their coasts and ports on the Black Sea for maritime transportation.

Shipping across the Black Sea is facilitated by its depth (over 2,000 meters in places) and the steep rise of the seabed close to the coast.

Below is a list of five ports around this inland sea used for a range of business activities.

Port of Constanța (Romania)

Located in the southeastern corner of Romania, the natural port of ConstanÈ›a is the country’s largest port and its major maritime gateway to international waters.

The port enjoys ideal geographic conditions, with natural mooring suitability and breakwaters.

Since its modernization in 1909, the port of ConstanÈ›a has handled almost all of Romania’s inbound and outbound cargos.

The traffic reached an all time high in 1988 and 2008, when over 60 million tonnes of cargo and over 700,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) were handled in Constanța.

In 2022, however, the port is facing capacity issues for the first time in many years, as it is also beginning to ship Ukraine’s grain exports.

Samsun Port (Turkey)

This port is Turkey’s greatest access point to the Black Sea, linking Turkey to all five other countries in the Black Sea region.

Until 1953, the Samsun port was an open anchorage, but the growing cargo traffic prompted Turkish ports authority to begin the construction of an artificial harbor.

With the installation of cranes a decade later, Samsun linked central Anatolia to other ports across the sea.

In 2022, the port is serving several ocean-going vessels at any given time, and it looks nothing like its former self. 

Port of Odessa (Ukraine)

Located near the Ukrainian city of Odessa, this is the largest seaport in Ukraine. The port used to handle up to 40 million tonnes of cargo until its closure because of the 2022 war.

In its heyday, the port handled over 30 million tonnes and 520,000 TEUs each year. It also enjoyed an access to the country’s railway system, making it one of the most well-equipped facilities across the Black Sea region.

The port of Odessa operates seven cargo terminals, as well as designated passenger, freight, and oil and gas terminals.

The port also has a historic shipyard, known as Shipyard Ukraina, where repair and construction operations take place.

Primarily an industrial port, Odessa also played a role in Ukraine’s growing tourism industry before the war. Cruise ships often dropped anchor, and their passengers (up to 4 million) disembarked at Odessa’s fine passenger terminals.

The Odessa port, with its yacht complex, concert hall, and four-star hotel is probably the most tourist-friendly port on this list.

Batumi Seaport (Georgia)

The largest port of Georgia is located in the west of the country and the eastern shores of the Black Sea.

Starting as a natural deep-water harbor, the seaport is now thoroughly modernized, boasting oil, dry cargo, and container terminals, among much else.

It is of enormous importance to places beyond Georgia too. Batumi is connected to the nearby republic of Azerbaijan through the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, thus creating an on-land logistical corridor between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.

The Batumi seaport is also one of the oldest on this list, with a history that dates back to Roman times. 

Port Varna (Bulgaria)

Port Varna is the largest of its kind in Bulgaria. Thanks to its proximity to the Bosporus, and therefore high seas, Port Varna is more than a Black Sea facility.

The port has two inland canals which connect the Black Sea to Lake Varna, where the eastern and older terminal is located.

A modernization program in the 2000s and 2010s added a deep water container terminal to the port in the estuary of the northern canal. The terminal will soon be able to handle vessels larger than 2,500 TEU.

There are also over 40 berths, 65 cranes, and some 450,000 m2 of warehouses.

A conclusion

The future of maritime transportation in the Black Sea is currently unclear as war rages to its north.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has predictably disrupted the ordinary flow business in many of the ports mentioned above, while dangerously overburdening at least one of them.

As of May 19, 2022, the Romanian port of Constanța is challenged by the handling of both Ukrainian and Romanian grain exports, which may soon lead to a bottleneck in the global supply chain for the commodity.

Only the return of peace can return the five ports mentioned here to their normal states, which is a matter of importance for all six nations in the Black Sea region, and to the world at large.

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