Caspian Sea water levels study to inform Aktau Port adaptation

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.

The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water in the world, bordered by Kazakhstan, Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. It forms an important part in, but also a bottleneck to, the Middle Corridor, which is a network of interconnected routes linking China and Europe. This trade route avoids Russia and its significance has increased since the war in Ukraine commenced.

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 metres over the past 120 years. Since the mid-1990s, the Caspian Sea’s water levels have decreased by approximately 2 metres. 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fenders, which are used to prevent damage to vessels when they are docked, have lost their effectiveness and have been replaced by temporary ones.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.

This work will help the port to withstand and adapt to changing conditions. Increasing the climate resilience of Aktau Port will allow it to continue to play an important part in contributing to Kazakhstan’s economy in the future.  

This study is funded by the Japan-Bank Program for Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Management in Developing Countries, which is financed by the Government of Japan and receives technical support from the World Bank Tokyo Disaster Risk Management Hub.

HR Wallingford and World Bank staff in high visibility jackets standing for a picture in Port of Aktau on Caspian sea
An initial visit to the Port of Aktau by the HR Wallingford and World Bank team

Want to know more?

Press Office
Press Office
+44 (0)1491 822854
Preferred contact method
Stay informed - opt-in to receive regular updates

By clicking 'Send message', you consent to allow HR Wallingford to store and process the personal information provided in this form to email you requested information. Every email will include a clear unsubscribe link. For more information on how we use your personal data please see our privacy policy.