Bechtel will work with ASEZA to set up a private development company to manage the zone, gradually reducing its involvement in the scheme after providing initial marketing and consultancy services. ‘Under the new terms [of the contract], Bechtel will no longer have a stake in the projected developing company so instead of acting as an investor Bechtel will serve as an interim manager,’ ASEZA said in an early-June statement.

ASEZA celebrated its first year of operation on 17 May with the launch of Jordan II. Owned by the Jordan National Shipping Company, it is the first ship to be registered in the zone, and will provide cruises for tourists visiting Aqaba. To date, about 800 companies have started operations in the zone, which provides customs exemptions, low taxes and streamlined labour and immigration procedures, as well as tariff-free access to the US market. The zone is divided into five areas, which include two industrial estates, a port area and two areas designated for tourist developments. It is planned to attract over $6,000 million in foreign and local investment in the next two decades and create some 70,000 jobs (MEED 28:12:01).