‘In the last month, the authorities have decided to move ahead with the project and are now willing to invest in the infrastructure of the port,’ says a source close to the project. ‘There is a political will to move forward.’

The container terminal is likely to be offered on a 30-year concession. The terminal will form part of the first phase of the port’s development and will have an initial quay length of 1,500 metres and berths with an alongside depth of 17 metres. The government has still to finalise the exact legal and financial framework and has yet to make a decision on the extent of private sector involvement. It is understood to be looking at a similar method to the TangMed project in Morocco.

The first phase will have capacity of about 2.5 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) and will include construction of multi-purpose berths. It will require investment of $750 million-900 million. ‘The project is entirely dependent on whether the government negotiates successfully with one of the top port operators,’ says the source.

Located at Enfidha, some 60 kilometres south of Tunis, the site is about five kilometres away from the main highway and railroad running along the coastline.

It will also be connected to a nearby gas line. The entire project covers an area of about 2 million square metres. Phase 1 will require about 30 million cubic metres of dredging.

Subsequent phases will extend the quay to 3,600 metres with capacity of about 6 million TEUs. There is scope for expansion beyond that with the possibility of a 5,000-metre quay and capacity increasing to 8 million TEUs. Total project costs for the 30-year programme are estimated at $1,650 million. A team of the Netherlands’ Royal Haskoning and the local International Development Consultants (IDC), which has completed the feasibility study, is acting as consultant on the project.

It is unclear what impact the Enfidha terminal will have on proposed plans to build a separate container terminal at the commercial port of Tunis-La Goulette-Rades. L’Office de la Marine Marchande et des Ports (OMMP) has already extended to 23 September the bid deadline for the build-operate-transfer (BOT) contract to develop the terminal. Germany’s Hamburg Port Consulting is the consultant on the project. ‘Rades port will be needed and at a certain point investment will be required, but it might not be the right time to launch a BOT along with the new port,’ says the source.

The new port plans take into consideration the proposed greenfield airport at Enfidha, which would be on a site adjacent to the port and logistics zone. (MEED 9:9:05).