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Bahrain gears up to service buoyant box trade

Bahrain gears up to service buoyant box trade
Bahrain’s Ministry of Transport will be inviting dredging firms to bid for the next phase of its Khalifa bin Salman channel deepening programme early in 2014.

The contract, likely to take about 18 months with a value close $60m, will see the channel dredged from its current 13.6 m to 15 m, enabling container vessels of around 11-12,000 teu to access the APM Terminals-operated terminal compared with the current maximum of 8,000 teu.

The move comes as Bahrain becomes more important as a gateway to booming Saudi Arabia. Container lines are eyeing up direct calls and the new Hanjin Shipping/NYK 12-ship service linking the Far East, Middle East and US West Coast calling weekly in Bahrain and introduced in August is thriving, according to sources. Bahrain is also fulfilling an increasingly important role as a regional hub.

It offers a convenient alternative to Saudi’s Dammam which often suffers congestion but provides vital access to Saudi’s eastern province and its rapidly growing economy.

Meanwhile new feeder links to the booming industrial city of Jubail are expected to be announced soon. Dry containerised petrochemical exports from there are changing the nature of regional box trade, with Saudi now becoming an important exporter of laden boxes, as well as a key importer.