Bahrain’s General Organisation of Sea Ports plans to develop a facility for importing construction materials at the old Mina Salman port by early 2011.

The masterplan is currently under study, according to Hassan al-Majdi, director general of the port authority. The port will continue to handle grain imports.

Most operations ceased at Mina Salman following the opening of the new Khalifa bin Salman port in April 2009.

While the total capacity of the first phase of the port is 1.1 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), it is currently running below capacity since the port opened due to the affect the economic downturn had on global trade levels.

This year the port is showing signs of improvement. Total throughput in February was 31,924 TEUs and 30,573 TEUs in January. Throughput in December 2009 was 25,125 TEUs.

The port includes a passenger terminal, two roll-on/roll-off ramps and general cargo facilities (MEED 17:11:09). The channel depth has now been dredged to 15 metres.

Al-Majdi says that while it is difficult to judge the future of the market, he expects the planned second phase of Khalifa bin Salman port to be operational within five years.

The construction of phase two of the port expansion would take capacity at the port to 2.5 million TEUs a year.

However, even without phase two, capacity at the port still has the potential to increase to two million TEUs a year as the necessary infrastructure is already prepared. This would simply require additional equipment.

Netherlands-based APM Terminals is the port operator and has already attracted Australia’s APL shipping line to use the port as its transhipment hub for the northern Gulf markets, says Al-Majdi. This will ensure that capacity increases as the year progresses.

With the addition of further shipping lines, Al-Majdi expects Khalifa bin Salman port to be running at full capacity by the end of 2010 due to the anticipated increase in transhipments.

“The operator is talking to a number of shipping lines, which are considering the Khalifa bin Salman port seriously. In the coming few months we will see more shipping lines [using] the port,” Al-Majdi tells MEED.