Tripoli Port Set to Compete for Eastern Mediterranean Shipping Traffic

Article Summary
A major redevelopment of the Port of Tripoli in North Lebanon has completed its second stage. The port, which will benefit from state of the art equipment and facilities, is being positioned as a key competitor of Haifa and other Israeli ports, and will create 500 jobs for locals in 2012. Ghassan Rifi reports.

Today, Tripoli Port turns the page on five decades of an official policy of neglect, to be reborn on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea with advanced international standards not available at the ports of neighboring Arab states. The works of the second phase have been completed by establishing a new berth of 15.2 meters in depth, and a yard area of 650,000 square meters. The port will be able to receive the largest vessels, and will play essential economic and trade roles at the local and regional levels. The port will also create 500 jobs for residents of Tripoli and North [Lebanon] in 2012.

Since the issuance of law decree number 43 on 1 April 1959, ordering the establishment of the Tripoli Port Investment Authority as a public institution enjoying financial and administrative independence, the port has looked forward to playing a larger regional role. However, the absence of official interest and the series of events that took place in Lebanon did not allow for the port to play this larger role. Meanwhile, other neighboring Arab ports were developing their capabilities and deepening their berths, which made Tripoli Port step out of the competition in favor of Beirut Port. On the basis of the centralization adopted in Lebanon, the Port of Beirut received huge attention from the state and was expanded and made deeper. However, the works in Tripoli Port throughout these years were limited to establishing 1,900 and 1,000 meter wave breakers and adding some warehouses. All of this took place prior to the realization of the dream project adopted by Public Works and Transport Minister Ghazi Al-Aridi, implemented by the Chinese company China Harbor and funded by the European Bank and Lebanese Treasury. Al-Aridi worked on surpassing all obstacles and hurdles that this project has faced, visiting the port 12 times to follow up on the details of this project, and held many meetings with his administration and China Harbor on the goals for pushing work forward and limiting delays in order to deliver it on time.

Today is thus considered to be the date of Tripoli Port's official birth, as the port now has new and advanced systems in administration, logistics and electronic programming that have enabled it to obtain an ISO 9001 international quality certificate. These factors will make Tripoli Port a serious competitor to neighboring ports, especially because of the diligent work of its administration, which in recent years has accomplished a qualitative shift in the number of vessels [serviced at the port,] from 425 in 2007 to 550 in 2011. Moreover, transit commodities increased four times in 2011, from 100,000 to 400,000 tons, in addition to the increase in revenues by around one billion Lebanese Pounds in 2011 compared to 2010. A 150,000 square meters free zone was also established adjacent to the port. This free zone grants economic and financial benefits to promote imports and exports. The commodities produced and stored in this zone are considered to be outside the customs area and exempt from taxes and customs regulations.

The total area of Tripoli Port is around three million square meters, 1.5 million of which are water space, 950,000 of which are land space, and 550,000 of which are allocated for establishing the free zone. The land space is divided into a current dock with a yard and the free zone, and a new dock will be opened by Prime Minister Najib Mikati [on February 2], with a 650,000 square meters yard.

Moreover, Tripoli Port includes two berths. The old berth is eight to ten meters deep and has a dock 900 meters long. This berth could hold eight mid-sized vessels of all commodity types. However, the second berth is 15.2 meters deep and has a dock 600 meters long. This berth could hold three large vessels and is divided into two sections. The first section is 400 meters long and is allocated for serving container vessels. The second section is 200 meters long and is allocated for serving bulk carriers.

The total land space for warehouses and yards is around 22,000 square meters, divided into 13 warehouses of different sizes that store different commodity types and dry bulk cargo. The outdoor area is 45,000 square meters  and is allocated for storing some types of wood not affected by the elements; steel; and natural coal, that brings in a lot of revenues to the port's treasury. There are also two other areas: one of them is allocated as a waiting area for trucks, and the other is allocated for the weight scale. However, the new built-up area behind the new dock will be allocated for warehouses and yards to store commodities and containers; administrative buildings, and an indoor and outdoor waiting area for trucks.

It is expected that PM Mikati and Minister Al-Aridi will announce in today's inauguration ceremony the launching of the third stage of the port’s development, which will include constructing the infrastructure of the pile-up area behind the dock, and buying the equipment and supplies that will operate the new dock.

Director of Tripoli Port, Ahmad Tamer, thanks Al-Aridi for "the efforts he made throughout this period for this dream project to see the light, and all the other supporters headed by PM Mikati who is overseeing more development and advancement to this port." He noted that "this accomplishment is the result of the efforts of the past three cabinets." Tamer said, "The port in its new outlook will refresh Tripoli and the entire Northern region. The port will be a center for international trade with advanced logistical means. The port will also supply 500 new job opportunities and will enable Tripoli to link itself with the Arab region, especially Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and the Arab Gulf. Tripoli Port, with its new features, will be an attracting factor for them." Tamer believes that "Tripoli Port will enter in a new competition with the ports of the Israeli enemy, which is establishing a railway that links Haifa with Eilat, and Haifa with Ashdod; especially given that its port supports multimodal transportation. Therefore, the development plan should be accelerated to establish a railway and to reopen Qlayat Airport. We believe that all Arab efforts should be made to support Tripoli Port, which will be considered within the framework of resisting Israeli expansion."

A ceremony will be held today at noon to celebrate the completion of the second stage of the project in developing, expanding, and deepening Tripoli Port. PM Mikati, Minister Al-Aridi, a China Harbor delegate, Chairman of Arab Ports Ambassador Mohammad Al-Rabi, Chairman of the Tripoli Port Board of Directors George Fadlallah, and board of directors member Mahmoud Salhab will give speeches at this ceremony. The ceremony will be hosted by Ahmad Tamer.

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