BIG ambitions to reclaim lost business are set to advance in the autumn as two of the region’s historic ports rebuild and relaunch themselves. The historic port of Aden and the Mediterranean port of Beirut are pushing ahead with redevelopment schemes which they hope will recapture their respective positions as two of the region’s great entrepots. Both Yemen and Lebanon are looking to the ports as sources of new revenues after years of division, conflict and economic stagnation.

The Aden port and free zone development is by far the larger of the two projects, with the costs of the first phase alone estimated at $250 million, more than twice the finance required to upgrade Beirut port. The first phase will include the construction of a 610-metre quay with two construction terminals, for which the UK’s Posford Duvivier has already completed preliminary designs.

The container terminal will have a handling capacity of 300,000 20-foot equivalent units a year. The port will later expand to include a 1,350-hectare industrial area. In the second phase, Aden international airport is to be upgraded and a 120-MW power plant will be added.

Bids for both projects are due at the end of August. The final stage of the scheme will see the construction of a $65 million World Trade Centre with 100,000 square metres of office space.

Preparations for the construction work are already under way following the award by Yeminvest, the project developer, of major contracts in recent weeks.

The Dubai-based Fugro Middle East and Bactec and MacAlister Elliott & Partners, both of the UK, are carrying out the geotechnical, bathymetry and environmental surveys as a prelude to the detailed design work and dredging, which is to begin by November.

While Aden is seeking to attract lucrative east-west trade away from Gulf ports such as Jebel Ali, Beirut aims at reemerging as the leading gateway to the Levant. The scheme to renovate Beirut port is intended to increase capacity by 70 per cent to 4.3 million tonnes a year.

This will involve building a container station, two 280-metre quays and a breakwater within three years.

Spain’s Entrecanales & Tavora has emerged as the low bidder for the work, with an offer worth $102.8 million. About half of the financing will be covered by a loan of ECU 45 million ($58 million) from the European Investment Bank. A separate tender is to be issued for the construction of a 10-12-MW power station on the site. The client is the Societe de Gestion du Port de Beyrouth.

Both port projects can expect sentimental support from shippers who remember when they were thriving entrepots, but their future will be determined by competitive rates and quality service rather than old emotions.