Bids have been submitted in recent weeks to the government steering committee for the consultancy contract to oversee the final design stages of the project, and for the programme management contract.

The port is intended to be able to handle 6 million 20-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) by 2025.

As well as container capacity, the site will have cargo and livestock berths, a military port and a large free zone in the hinterland.

Road and rail links will join the port to Doha and to the nearby oil, gas and petrochemicals port at Mesaieed.

Although it is still known as New Doha Port, a decision was taken in 2007 to relocate the project away from the capital.

MEED reported late last year that the Qatari government had abandoned plans for an offshore site on reclaimed land and linked to the capital by an 8.5-kilometre-long bridge.

Instead, an onshore site 35km further along the coast was chosen, between Mesaieed and Al-Wakrah, which should provide more space to expand the port in the future (MEED 19:10:08).

“The first phase will see 2 million TEUs of space built by 2014,” says a senior ports official in Doha. “We will then add 2 million more by 2020, and will have 6 million TEUs by 2025. The new site gives us much more room to grow.”

The offshore project was originally expected to cost $5.5bn. Sources close to the scheme say the current plan will come in at a similar price or higher, given the rising cost of raw materials and worldwide scarcity of engineering resources.

“You are shooting at a moving target when you talk about construction costs in the current market,” says a source close to the project. “That [$5.5bn] is the order of things for a major new port project but costs are going up. Certainly it will be a multi-billion-dollar project.”

No decision has been made about what to do with the current port site in Doha, although turning part of it into a tourism and cruise hub has been suggested.

The decision to move the port away from the capital is a logical one, according to sources working on the project.

“Doha, like many cities in the region that have grown rapidly around a port, is too congested now for a port of that size,” says the project source.

“An industrial port in the centre does not fit with the development of the city. Qatar is bidding for the Olympics and it would not really be appropriate.”

A final question mark hangs over the new port’s name. New Doha Port was applied when the project was still to be located in the capital and no alternative has been put forward since the move down the coast.

“We cannot really call it Doha Port if it’s not there,” says the ports official. “We could call it Mesaieed II. I don’t know.”