‘We expect the extension to be until 30 June, to coincide with the handing over of power by the CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority] to a new Iraqi authority,’ John Walsh, SSA’s port director for Umm Qasr, said in Dubai on 2 March at the MEED Iraq: Focusing on the Future conference.

Under the terms of the contract, SSA has carried out an initial port assessment and improved development plans. It has also supplied technical expertise to ensure adequate flow of transshipments.

At present, Umm Qasr port handles 6,600 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of cargo a month. SSA has collected about $8 million in tariffs for the Iraqi Ports Authority from the 280 vessels that have called at Umm Qasr. ‘Throughput at Umm Qasr can be doubled through an investment programme,’ Walsh said.

SSA has submitted a proposal to the project management office of the CPA for a $9 million investment to upgrade the existing facilities at Umm Qasr.

The scheme will call for the refurbishment of two cranes at the old Umm Qasr port and a temporary installation of a similar number of mobile harbour cranes. ‘The [new] investment will allow two ro-ro [roll-on/roll-off] vessels to be handled simultaneously,’ Walsh said.