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Contracts to manage two of Iraq’s six ports are not expected to be awarded before the end of August, as the deadline for the submission of tenders has closed.

In a recent notice, the Iraqi Ministry of Transportation sought proposals to conduct port management and operations at the Umm Qasr and Az-Zubayr ports in Iraq:

“The intent of ensuing contract besides management and operations will be to transform the ports into modern, effective and efficient world-class ports capable of delivering the required flow of humanitarian, reconstruction, commercial and military goods to the people of Iraq.

“These activities will be carried out on a revenue-sharing contract, with cost-reimbursable features. The duration of the contract will be five years, with an option of a five-year extension.”

A number of port operators, including Dubai International, the overseas port and free-zone management arm of Dubai’s Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation (PCFC), have submitted bids.

“We have submitted our bids already. However, we have not received anything from the Iraqi authorities on the tenders so far,” Mohammed Sharaf, managing director of Dubai International, has said.

Meanwhile, Seattle-based Stevedoring Services of America (SSA) or SSA Marine, managing the Umm Qasr Port since May 2003, has handed over its charge to the Iraqi Ports Authority (IPA) when its contract expired on June 30.

“We are, however, managing the administration, accounts and security at Umm Qasr port,” says Fergus Moran, senior project manager of SSA Marine’s operations at Umm Qasr.

“Following the contract’s expiry, we signed a bridge contract with Iraq’s transportation ministry to continue part of our services at Umm Qasr until a management contract is awarded to the selected party.” Moran declines to say if SSA Marine was one of the bidders.

SSA Marine was awarded the contract after an international bidding process and has managed the Iraqi port since the transfer of control from the British military on May 23, 2003.

Since then, more than 280 vessels, 1.2mn tonnes of cargo and more than 8,000 people have used the port.

US construction giant Bechtel spent US$38mn in dredging and upgrading the port facility and increased the number of berths to 21 from nine in September.

The main cargoes handled included containers, break-bulk, RoRo, construction, bulk grain, bagged rice and sugar.

Cargo throughput increased 400%by June 2004. It has 33 warehouses, two container cranes, rail links and good road access.

Thus, IPA collected more than US$18mn in revenues from this activity.