The bids will be opened on 26 June and the award of both contracts is expected by early August. Umm Qasr and Khor al-Zubair have been operated by Stevedoring Services of America (SSA)and Denmark’s Maerskrespectively since hostilities ended last May. Both companies, which are scheduled to hand over operation of the ports on 30 June when the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) is dissolved, are understood to have bid for the five-year agreements (MEED 28:5:04).

Maersk had formed a local subsidiary known as South Iraqi Container Terminalto manage Khor al-Zubair, which is located six kilometres north of Umm Qasr on the Shatt al-Arab waterway. The port, which has a 2.5 kilometre-long quay and 176,000 square metres of warehousing space, was recently dredged to 11 metres to allow access to large dry cargo vessels.

Initially the Iraqi Ports Authority (IPA) was offering developers 10-year concessions to invest up to $1,000 million in the country’s five main ports of Umm Qasr, Khor al-Zubair, Mina Maqal, Abu Fulus and Khor al-Amaya. However the tender was cancelled in April following the removal from office of IPA director Abdul Razzaq Kateh Hassan, who was replaced by Mahmood Saleh Abdul-Nabi (MEED 20:2:04).

In the long term the IPA, which is set to become the country’s port regulator once the contracts have been awarded, plans to upgrade most of the facilities over the next 20 years. The programme includes $1,050 million worth of projects to add berths to Umm Qasr, Khor al-Zubair and Mina Maqal (MEED 14:5:04).