Port Authority chief Ahmad Tamer believes the project will create demand for 30 million tons of cargo capacity a year, and work has already begun on ensuring that Tripoli wins a slice of that market.
“Lebanon will benefit from the comparative advantages of the port, which will pave the way for new horizons in the near future,” Tamer said.
A $400 million expansion project is nearing completion, the port terminal is being managed by the experienced UAE operator Gulftainer, and a new “special economic zone” is planned for next to the port.
“We have finalized the infrastructure of the port and installed electric power covering all its areas,” Tamer said.
“We have also built roads and a special gate to the container dock, which will be able to receive around 200,000 containers in the first stage and then double the number later with the cooperation of big international companies and the adoption of sea lanes with Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Port Said in Egypt.”
Tripoli may even be a link in China’s ambitious trillion-dollar “One Belt, One Road” project. The Chinese company Qingdao Haixi Heavy-Duty Machinery has supplied two giant container cranes to the port.
Economic sources told Arab News that “several companies seeking to get involved in the reconstruction of Syria have rented offices and houses for their employees in Tripoli, the city from which they will be running their operations.”
The ratification by parliament this month of the new public-private partnership law will help, the sources said. Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri described the legislation as “a step forward in the strong partnership between the government and the private sector; it will boost the Lebanese economy.”
Tamer said: “The port is ready through its advanced logistics services that facilitate the movement of containers, reduce the handling prices by 12 percent and the port fees by 53 percent, lower than any other port. There is also a grace period that allows goods to stay in the port for 15 days, and reduced prices after the grace period, which will make our fees 44 percent lower than other ports.”
Former minister of public works and transport Ghazi Aridi worked on the restoration of the port in 2011, driven by “the security circumstances that prevailed in Syria and the region.”
He told Arab News: “I visited the port 16 times; we held several meetings in Beirut to study the political circumstances defining the fate of exports, in case the land crossings between Syria and Lebanon were to be closed, in light of the confrontations that were taking place in Syria. We saw that air transport was costly to Lebanon, so we focused on maritime transport as the only solution.”
Aridi said talks about the importance of the port of Tripoli “were recently intensified amid talks about Syria’s reconstruction,” and “in order to complete the restoration of the port, we will need to reactivate the railway, up to the Syrian borders; it will cost between $40m and $45m, which is not a large sum and can be provided from the Port’s Fund.”
Antoine Amatoury, Gulftainer’s chairman in Lebanon, said Tripoli was “an important launch platform for the reconstruction of Syria and Iraq, and this is what will drive us forward to face those who want to hinder the process.”
The port of Tripoli is the second largest port in Lebanon, after Beirut. It extends over 3 million square meters and can receive around 450 ships per year, with a monthly average of about 37 ships, most of which carry general goods such as iron, wood, sugar, various types of grains, scrap metal, cars and building materials. The port also has a duty-free zone.