Russia, Greece and Bulgaria have agreed to begin building a long-delayed oil pipeline linking the Black Sea to the Aegean.
The go ahead for the project was announced in Athens where President Vladimir Putin met with his Greek and Bulgarian counterparts.
It will cut the heavy oil tanker traffic in the congested Bosphorus Straits. It is estimated that currently delays caused by so many ships trying to load oil in the Bosphorus cost energy companies at least 500 million euros a year.
Announcing the pipeline, Putin said: “Russia is one of the principal suppliers of the energy resources for the European and world markets, and Greece and Bulgaria for a long time have been our reliable partners in this field, so this partnership represents for Russia a particular interest.”
He added: Russia isn’t imposing any strict conditions for this project. We want just this kind of venture to proceed with our traditional partners.”
The more than half of the 280 kilometre pipeline would pass through Bulgaria. It is projected to cost 700 million euros and would have a final annual capacity of 35 million tons of oil.
The agreement is for construction to start early next year and the provisional completion date is 2009.
The pipeline will make Greece a transit hub for Russian energy exports to the west and strengthen Moscow’s grip on the market.
It was first proposed 14 years ago, but up until now, the three countries had not been able to agree on such issues as who would build it, ownership of terminals and transit fees.