Jabbar took up the vacant ministerial position at the beginning of August, and has temporarily suspended all major transport infrastructure projects while he gets to grips with his new portfolio.

As well as the $1bn privatisation of the southern port at Umm Qasr, suspended projects include national carrier Iraqi Airways and tendering for major rail schemes.

Baghdad had been accelerating the privatisation of the southern Umm Qasr port and was in the process of appointing an international consultant to the project when Jabbar’s appointment brought the process to a halt.

Bids had been received from four unnamed port operators or consultants (MEED 30:5:08).

Jabbar, a marine engineer with little experience of port management, will now review the planned appointment and the privatisation scheme as a whole.

The remit for the consultant may be expanded beyond the five-year management contract originally planned to include a greater role in advising the minister.

Following privatisation and subsequent redevelopment, container capacity at Umm Qasr’s southern port is scheduled to be 300,000 20-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) initially, rising to some 1 million TEUs.

Earlier this year, the Iraqi army seized control of the northern port at Umm Qasr from Shia insurgents. Both Umm Qasr and the nearby port of Al-Maaqal have since remained under the control of Iraqi security forces (MEED 25:4:08).