The British Petroleum pipeline that brought Georgia into the international spotlight has been turned off after six days of sporadic Russian bombing in the country.
BP spokesperson Rusiko Medzmariashvili stated that the Baku-Supsa pipeline, the older of two BP pipelines that cross Georgia, has been shut down "as a precautionary measure." She did not specify a date for the decision.
The larger Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline is also not operating due to a fire in eastern Turkey, she said.
Medzmariashvili confirmed that no oil is currently heading out of Baku for the Black Sea cost, although he added that "alternative routes are being considered right now." Among the alternatives are rail lines and other, smaller pipelines crossing Georgia.
The decision comes after nearly a week of fighting between Georgia and its northern neighbor, Russia.
Russian bombs have hit the western coast of Georgia, including the towns of Senaki, Zugdidi and Poti, which is just 13 kilometers from the Supsa terminal.
Early on August 13, a land attack sank two ships adjacent to the port, according to Alan Middleton, chief executive officer of the Poti Port Corporation. The strike was the second Russian attack on Poti since full-scale hostilities began on August 8.
On August 9, approximately 20 bombs were dropped on the commercial port and the surrounding area. While the port was largely unharmed, the bombs reportedly killed 11 people and injured nearly 80 others. Port employees told EurasiaNet that the bombs disintegrated into shrapnel-like metal balls upon impact.
"[Russia] purely just dropped the bomb to try to kill people and cause mayhem, " Middleton said in an interview the following day. "[It] certainly did." The port, however, remains "fully operational."
Middleton estimated daily losses for both the Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority (RAKIA), which operates the port, and the government, at a "conservative" $1 million per day. Ras Al Khaimah, a United Arab Emirates concern, purchased a 51 percent stake in the port this past April; the government holds a 49 percent share. [For details, see the Eurasia Insight archive.]
During a recent guided port tour, no serious damage to facilities could be seen. The bombing resulted in some holes in metal cargo containers and broken windows in the customs office. Middleton said that the port is working at "limited capacity" because workers refuse to come back. That sense of wariness can be felt throughout Poti. A day after the August 9 bombing, the usually busy central market was quiet. Most cars were headed out of town, after a government warning that more bombing was expected.
At the Maltaqza Hospital near Poti, doctors remained on high alert. All injured bombing victims were being relocated to other hospitals in the area in preparation for more wounded, according to hospital director Zeinab Charchalia.
Although the hospital had kept over 40 doctors and surgeons on call, the facility suffered from a lack of personnel and equipment, she said.
The attack, according to Nino Mcheglishvili, the assistant director of Poti's health service, was a surprise for the town.
"We expected to take injured from Tskhinvali or Senaki. Not our own," she said, adding defiantly that "whatever happens, we will not leave town."
Middleton also expressed optimism that life at the port would soon return to normal. RAKIA's $200 million investment plans are still on track, including the development of a free economic zone near the port, he stressed.
"We are in it for the long-term," he said.
Editor's Note: Molly Corso is a freelance reporter currently based in western Georgia.