Saudi Arabia is planning to spend $613m on the expansion of its seaports.

“All ports are subject now to expansion. We are investing now SR2.3bn for projects in all the ports and we always continue increasing, particularly the industrial ports in Yanbu and Jubail,” says Jobarah al-Suraisry, the kingdom’s transport minister.

“The next budget will be coming in five or six months and we will see more projects,” he says.

One of the projects will be an expansion of Dammam port that will see its capacity doubled to three million containers over the next three years. Suraisry says the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund and Singapore port operator PSA are likely to carry out the expansion.

Saudi Arabia currently has nine ports, the largest of which is Jeddah Islamic Port (Jip) on the Red Sea, which now has a capacity of five million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) following the opening of the Red Sea Gateway terminal in 2009.

Suraisry forecasts a five per cent rise in traffic at Jip this year. Jip handled 3.9 million TEUs in 2010.

Saudi Ports Authority also plans to raise the kingdom’s container handling capacity to 15 million TEUs by 2020. The current handling capacity of the ports is about 9 million TEUs (MEED 2:6:10).