Officials said that the port was waiting for the government to resolve the fate of 500 subcontractors currently working at the port who could lose their jobs once the operator starts running the container terminal. ‘I received the tender on Wednesday [1 October] and I am studying it,’ Public Works and Transport Minister Najib Mikati said, but he declined to set a date for the tender.

Finding an operator for the container terminal is vital for improving activity at Lebanon’s main port, which is trying to attract transit and transshipment traffic to boost its income. Built three years ago by the port authority, the $150 million terminal has remained empty due to the withdrawal of its former operator, Dubai Port Authority (DPA), in 2001.

DPA and its local partner withdrew from a 20-year agreement signed in 1998, forcing the Port of Beirut to buy new cranes last year for $27 million and draft a tender this year to bring in a new operator. The new contract is for 10 years and includes a $5 million performance bond for the first two years of operation, ‘just to make sure the operator does not pull out this time,’ according to Mikati. The subcontractors, who command political weight, have been operating at the port since the end of the civil war in 1990.