The Iraqi State Company for Maritime Transport has signed a five-year contract with Switzerland’s Global Refinery to jointly operate 66 ships.

The contract, which gives Iraq its first maritime fleet since the start of the US-led invasion of the country in 2003, is available for extension at the end of the five-year period. The ships include oil tankers and bulk carriers. Under the deal, the two companies will transport cargo worldwide and will also provide training for the staff of marine institutes.

“This contract is considered a leap in Iraq’s maritime business,” says Ismat Amer, director general of the maritime company. “We want to rehabilitate the infrastructure of the Iraqi state as a whole and this contract is part of rebuilding the infrastructure of the maritime transport sector.”

The contract also guarantees Iraq’s maritime company between six and eight per cent of the ships’ revenues.

Iraq is planning a number of ports projects in the country to boost revive its shipping and trade industry. The biggest project planned is the $6bn development of Grand Faw port. An Italian consortium led by Impregilo is carrying out the design of the port (MEED 11:4:10).