Sharjah-headquartered port operator Gulftainer is in talks to purchase a stake in an existing port in Myanmar.

It will mark the company’s first venture into operating ports in Asia.

“We are hoping to have news on a Myanmar opportunity by the end of the year,” Peter Richards, managing director of Gulftainer, tells MEED. “We think there is an opportunity for a combi-terminal there.”

Gulftainer is set to work with a local partner to develop and operate the port facilities.

“We always try to do joint ventures and work with a local partner,” says Richards. “We are not interested in just putting our flag in the ground, which a lot of people appreciate.”

The firm is also considering other investments outside of the Middle East, including the East coast of the US and Africa.

“We are in talks with three ports in Africa,” says Richards.

Earlier this year, Gulftainer expanded into the Saudi shipping market by taking over the management of three port terminals in Jeddah and Jubail.

It acquired a majority stake in Saudi Arabia’s Gulf Stevedoring Contracting Company and will operate the Northern container terminal at Jeddah Islamic Port, as well as Jubail Commercial Port and Jubail Industrial Port.

The operator is also looking to expand its UAE operations next year. A feasibility study for the expansion of the Khorfakkan port was completed by the US’ Halcrow earlier this year. The three options proposed by the report are now being reviewed by Gulftainer’s shareholders.

Richards expects a decision on the upgrade designs will be reached by the end of the year, with construction tenders to be released in the first quarter of 2014.

The expansion will be carried out in two phases over a two-year period. It will add an additional 2 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of capacity to the port’s current yearly capacity of 5 million TEUs.