Europort Shëngjin, a pharaonic project rewarded with a nice obelisk (and no investment)
The simultaneous mooring of 55 ships up to 500,000 dwt, 2.6 million TEUs and 200 million tons handled yearly: staggering figures for the dream of a Balkan businessman looking for a 2.2 billion euro investment from China
The first dreamer of an impressive development plan for the small harbour of Shëngjin was Lirim Muharremi, a Kosovo-Albanian businessman living in Koper.
His LM&Comp owns the “Europort – Eagle of the Adriatic” project, aiming to build the greatest hub in Southeastern Europe, a giant project whose 9 terminals would cover a 730 ha surface.
The port, fostering a general development of Balkan countries, would enable a 700 km shortening of transport routes, reducing carbon emission and helping to save 550 million euros.
In 2009, World Finance placed Europort on the list of top 100 projects, awarding Muharremi with its prestigious obelisk. Europort seems to be recommended by the Rothschild family as “highly profitable and of great importance”. But no investor reacted so far.
Europort would bring four benefits.
First, Shëngjin's geo-strategic position, due to the Albanian coast's potentiality for attracting the goods of 50 million of Balkan inhabitants and the lack of a huge capacity port along the Eastern Adriatic and Ionic coast. Second, the port constructions on land – a rocky coastline – would cover the 11% of its total surface, while the port constructions on sea would cover the 89%, exploiting 10-28 metres deep water. The new port could yearly process 2.6 million of TEUs and 60 million tons of goods and would be connected with the plain behind the mountain through two tunnels, without affecting urban and touristic settlements.
Third, the project boasts a long-term vision, overcoming the usual port urbanistic boundaries: Europort is conceived to expand along the coast according with future economic developments, to process 150-200 million tons of goods per year and to allow the simultaneous anchorage of 55 ships up to DTW 500,000 tons. Fourth, the low building expenses and sustainability of the port, requiring 2.2 billion euro “only”, since raw material to construct the infrastructure is available on site.
But only in 2013 the project entered the agenda of the Albanian Socialist Goverment, and Minister of Transportation Edmond Haxhinasto introduced the 2.2 billion euro plan to “Chinese investors”. Muharremi commented that, after trying to attract European investors, the Balkan's europeanisation will now happen with capitals from Russia and China. In January 2014, during the Albanian mission of a delegation of China's Ministry of Commerce, Beijing representatives visited Shëngjin, expressing their interest in investing into the harbour's development.
The port director, Gjovalin Tusha, declared that “the Chinese delegation's visit, and our talks with US representatives and with Kosovo Ministry of Transportation have created a positive climate for our port's future”. Meanwhile, the upcoming launch of new ferry connections with Bari and Ancona was announced, but never started.
Although there were rumors of China being awarded with a 25 years concession, Tirana Government replied that no agreement was signed with Beijing.
China Communications Construction Company Ltd, a global giant in port constructions, was said to be involved too. In March 2015, Chinese interest was joined by Netherlands and Belgium.
Antwerp Port Authority's director, Nico Berx, visited Shëngjin to conduct a feasibility study, showing a peculiar attention to ore exportation from Albania, while Netherlands's deputy Ambassador in Albania, Gilles Bauwens, said the development of Shëngjin is a relevant part of the Albania's European integration.
To date, only the Albanian Ministry of Transportation invested in Shëngjin – 1.6 million dollars in dredging the port and some other 260,000 dollars in building the ferry terminal, aiming at increasing goods handling from the current 250,000 yearly tons to 1 million tons. The construction of a 5 million euro yacht port was announced too.
Last August, while Syrian refugees were flocking to Germany, Muharremi twitted: “Stop migration, the only solution is EUROPORT Shengjin”.