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Saudi Arabia investing $30bn in port infrastructure development

Saudi Arabia is investing $30bn in seaport infrastructure development as part of its current five-year plan through a number of mega-infrastructure land and marine projects, according to a senior consultant to the Saudi Ports Authority.

Speaking at Seatrade Middle East Maritime Summit, Dimitris Kostianis, transport strategy advisor to the Saudi Ports Authority (SEAPA), said the kingdom was at a critical stage in its development , enjoying sufficient port capacity at the national level to meet demand, but, in planning for the future, needing to guard against the creation of overcapacity.

“As effective links in the transport chain, ports need to have good access and connectivity to hinterland road and rail networks, and good logistics facilities and services,” he said. “The master plans [for Saudi port expansions] foresee action in both areas in terms of concrete investment and high priority.”

The kingdom is in the midst of an efficiency drive to improve port performance. Key performance indicators for all port terminal operations would be required to optimise use of port land and operations, he said, adding that SEAPA envisaged setting up selection and quality performance criteria for Saudi terminal operators responsible for port management contracts.

Kostianis, who earlier worked as an independent consultant for ECOWAS in West Africa, said more decisive coordination was needed to provide an “integrated strategic national planning framework,” to improve connectivity between road and rail and ports, which included allowing more scope for private sector involvement in national port and transport development.

Jeddah Islamic Port, the kingdom’s largest port, saw throughput of around 4.6m teu in 2013. Saudi Arabia’s second port, Dammam, where a new PSA International facility of 1.5m teu is expected to come online next year, saw throughput of around 1.7m teu last year. SEAPA si responsible for six commercial and three industrial ports on Saudi Arabia’s east and west coasts.

Saudi Arabia has big plans for the future, largely centred around King Abdullah Port at Rabigh. Today, the phase one 2.7m teu container terminal there is nearing completion. It boasts a 1,470 mlong quay and has four berths, with 700,000 sq m of yard space. Completion of a fourth and final berth is expected to take place in Q4 2014.

SEAPA claims that 70 per cent of all container cargo into and out of the kingdom moves through the West coast, with the rest in the Gulf. The kingdom is witnessing strong growth and needs to import most of the goods consumed by its population of 30m. Government figures put growth of exports of non-oil goods for 2013 at 6.1%, while goods imports grew 8.1% last year.

In 2012, the World Bank carried out a study into the national port development strategy in the kingdom, which reported its findings to the Saudi government later that year.

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