The State Company for Iraqi Ports says it hopes to issue a tender in the coming weeks to invite offers from foreign groups.

New systems will speed up the process of clearing cargo from Umm Qasr terminal, which currently takes several days.

Iraq is steadily repairing its ports infrastructure after years of neglect during the reign of Saddam Hussein. In December 2008, the Transport Ministry appointed US transport consultant Cornell Group to oversee the development of Umm Qasr port (MEED 22:12:08).

Cornell will oversee the continued redevelopment of Iraq’s main deep-sea port, including the leasing of berths to international shipping groups.

Since the appointment of Emir Jabbar as Transport Minister in August 2008, Iraq has backed away from a full privatisation of Umm Qasr port, which had been mooted for some time. Instead, it is putting a series of short-term leases in place, with foreign shipping groups taking control of individual berths (MEED 7:11:08).