The contract is the second reconstruction contract to be awarded out of eight tendered by USAID on 31 January. Washington-based consulting firm International Resource Group (IRG)was awarded a $7.1 million, 12-month personnel support contract on 21 February.

SSA’s first task will be to work with USAID’s capital construction contractor in carrying out an initial port assessment and developing improvement plans to overcome what USAID called ‘port-imposed constraints’. It must also supply technical expertise to ensure an adequate flow of through-shipment. The company will be responsible for the port pilots who will guide ships up the channel, manage the access of trucking companies to the port and establish a system of controls to avoid theft and corruption.

SSA will also assist in locating and identifying obstacles that could affect the movement of shipping traffic, in co-ordination with local and national authorities. It will also facilitate cargo-handling services such as warehousing, shipment tracking, refrigerated and other cargo storage and the onward transport of shipments. A key aim is to reduce vessel turnaround time and increase vessel productivity.

The six other reconstruction contracts, which are expected to be awarded imminently, are:

Airport administration: the management of humanitarian and transhipment operations by air;

Capital construction:emergency repair of electrical supply; water and sanitation systems; roads and bridges; public buildings such as hospitals and schools; irrigation structures; and port facilities upgrades;

Theatre logistical support: warehousing, customs clearance, trucking and provision of bottled water;

Public health:help to restore the public health service;

Primary and secondary education: assistance in upgrading schools, printing textbooks and training teachers;

Local governance:maximising local participation in all phases and aspects of the reconstruction as the transition to Iraqi administration occurs. At the provincial and municipal levels, this includes the participation and selection of reconstruction projects, and setting in motion of self-government activities.