Groups are to submit expressions of interest by mid-November, with the three-year contracts likely to be awarded late this year or in early 2009.

The General Company for Ports of Iraq (GCPI) has shelved plans for a full-scale privatisation of Umm Qasr’s southern port, preferring to strike short-term deals.

The two berths are to be used for container vessels.

“Basra province is the centre for many industries in Iraq and Umm Qasr is the main port,” says a GCPI official. “For now, we are concentrating on containers.

“We will complete the bidding process on these two berths and then decide whether to develop more berths.”