Negotiations began in mid-July after BPA named the consortium as its preferred bidder for the 10-year management contract, which also has a five-year extension option. According to the terms set out by BPA in its request for proposals (RFP) documents, the contractor is required to maintain the terminal to handle up to 500,000 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) a year and invest a minimum of $3 million in modern operating systems, covering IT and equipment.

Five groups were shortlisted for the contract. The other bidders were: a joint venture between France’s CMACGMand Germany’s Hamburger Hafen & Lagerhaus (HHLA); Denmark’s AP Moller Group/Maersk (APMT); the Phillipines’ International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI); and Germany’s Eurokai, with Saudi Arabia’s Globe Management Services (GMS). US management consultant Cornell Groupis advising BPA on the tender.

Finding an operator is vital for improving activity at the country’s main port, which is trying to attract transshipment traffic to boost its income. Built three years ago by the BPA, the terminal has remained empty due to the withdrawal of its former operator, Dubai Ports Authority (DPA), in 2001 (MEED 7:5:04).

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 the tender for a new operator.