Despite the month-long battle against Islamic militants in the Lebanese northern port city of Tripoli, a series of explosions and assassinations and a half-year long stand-off between the government and the opposition that has essentially ground the country to a halt, Lebanon’s main sea hub, Beirut Port, reported in early June that it had experienced more than 9% growth in activity in the first five months of 2007.

“We have been doing quite well,” Beirut Port Authority chief Hassan Qoraitem told a local daily, “and if we continue at the same pace the port will be able to handle 1mn containers by the end of 2007” that is, significantly more than the capacity of 700,000 for which the port was designed.

According to official figures, the number of vessels that docked at Beirut Port in the first five months reached 990, an increase of 9% compared to 2005. The vessels unloaded and shipped more than 1.16mn tons of cargo in the first five months, an increase of 11% compared to the same period of 2005.

This has meant a boon for the cash-starved Lebanese treasury: the port handles 90% of Lebanon’s maritime operations, and, as a result of the increased activity, tariffs and VAT collected in the first five months of the year reached £325mn, an increase of 15% compared to the same period of 2005.