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Iraq to issue tenders for Grand Faw port project

First project for $6bn Iraqi mega port will be $340m breakwater

Iraq's current main port is Basra's Umm Qasr. Photo: Getty.
Iraq's current main port is Basra's Umm Qasr. Photo: Getty.

Iraq is to start work on its $6bn Grand al-Faw mega port project with the first invitations to tender for a breakwater for the port, the country's state port company has said.

The project, to be built south of Basra, has been on the cards for decades – but economic sanctions and war have meant the project has been shelved.

Omran Rahdi Thani, general manager of the General Company for Ports of Iraq, told Reuters the Transportation Ministry would soon seek bids to build the breakwater, which is expected to cost around $340 million.

Iraq relies on ports in neighbouring Kuwait for much of its non-oil trade. The mega port project is also part of a long-term plan to transform Iraq in to a logistics corridor between the Middle East and Europe. There are plans to reconstruct the colonial era railway linking the Gulf to Turkey.

'If Grand Faw port is completed it would be a major event for world transportation. We will shorten the time to reach Europe from 20 days to three or four,' Thani said.

The port will include 7km of quayside for container ships and around 3.5km for general cargo.

Iraqi authorities last year settled their differences with neighbouring Kuwait and concerns over shipping access to Grand Faw. Iraq was concerned that Kuwait’s Mubarak al Kabir Port project on Boubyan Island would affect Iraq’s maritime rights and access, but an inspection by Iraqi government officials dismissed the claims.

The two ports are just a few kilometres apart and Kuwait’s advanced progress on the Mubarak Al-Kabeer port has cast doubt on the economic viability of the Grand al-Faw Port. Two major ports within close proximity is likely to create a lot of competition between the neighbouring countries.

At the time, Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said a technical review by Iraqi investigators shows the Mubarak Al-Kabeer port "won't affect our navigation", and that it had "removed the fears of the Mubarak port".

Interviewed on Iraqi TV channel Iraqiya, Zebari said the technical team had been thorough and that, "The report was very clear and has brushed aside fears about possible negative impacts resulted from the construction of the port.”

"The decision over this issue will not be technical but political, and there are still differences in views within the (Iraqi) government.”

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