HR Wallingford developing models for Aktau Port

Over the next 18 months, HR Wallingford will be carrying out a study for The World Bank to assess how water levels in the Caspian Sea are likely to change under a range of future climate change scenarios and how this will affect the Port of Aktau in Kazakhstan.

Photo courtesy of Aktau Port

Aktau is the largest port in Kazakhstan. It plays a crucial role in facilitating Kazakhstan’s oil and grain exports to Azerbaijan and Europe, and forms a key part of the Middle Corridor trade route.

Water levels in the Caspian Sea have fluctuated by around 3.5 meters over the past 120 years. Since the mid-1990s, the Caspian Sea’s water levels have decreased by approximately 2m.

This has had an impact on the operation of the Port of Aktau. For example, 70% of the port’s fenders, which are used to prevent damage to vessels when they are docked, have lost their effectiveness and have been replaced by temporary ones.

In addition, many ships cannot be loaded to their full capacity owing to the reduced water depths at the berths, reducing the port’s efficiency.

The assessment of future Caspian Sea water levels will be used, together with a hydrodynamic model, to help to develop a range of adaptation options for the port. These could include:

  • various dredging strategies;
  • modifications to existing quays;
  • new fendering systems, including the use of floating fenders;
  • changes in cargo-handling equipment and approaches;
  • new berths and moorings, such as single point moorings, comprising a buoy anchored offshore, which can be used for the transfer of oil to vessels;
  • requirements for new classes of ships which can operate in shallower waters.