Iraq’s Al Faw Grand Port has been on the drawing board for at least a decade, but it remains difficult to identify definite signs of progress.
A remarkable masterplan envisages a massive set of man-made container terminals which could completely redraw the global map for Asia-Europe trade, via rail and road links through Iraq into Turkey and wider Europe. But can Iraq deliver?
Today, there is talk of launch of a container terminal by 2025, which would also include dry bulk facilities, an oil terminal, a dry dock and a naval base.
A phase two industrial area would comprise a refinery, a steel plant and other industrial utilities.
Phase three would involve Al Faw New City, including housing, a trade and commercial centre, and school and mosques.
At over 15km, Al Faw New Port’s breakwater, on which Seatrade Maritime News understands construction is now complete, is believed to be the world’s longest.
A five-berth container terminal is envisaged with an initial capacity of 3.5m teu per annum.
A 58km connecting road with Umm Qasr is also to be built. A new railway to Basra and beyond is also envisaged.
In 2021, Daewoo Engineering & Construction Co. said it had won a $2.7bn deal from the state-run General Company for Ports of Iraq (GCPI) to build a tunnel, a container terminal and roads to the Al Faw port in Basra.
As early as 2013, it won a $693m order to build a breakwater in southern Iraq, according to Korean news agency, Yonhap, and appears to have continued to win a stream of work in the country.
This possibly made it the preferred contractor on the Al Faw project, in the face of a preference among some Iraqi planners to work with Chinese engineering and construction companies as being cheaper.
If it comes to fruition, the project could rival Jebel Ali and the Suez Canal as conduits for global trade.
It is clear that the existing Iraqi ports of Umm Qasr and Basra do not have the draft to handle the largest container vessels. According to Shipnext.com, maximum draft at Umm Qasr is 11m and Basra’s 8.8m.
The Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Policy Center (EPC), in a note last month, drew a baleful picture of the way in which Iraq’s government and infrastructure-creation apparatus had stymied progress.
“The state’s limited capacity and the prioritisation of personal and group interests often lead to ineffective project development, slow progress, and the snail-paced bureaucratic mechanism that further undermines effective projects,” it said.
However, a mosaic of reports and pictures indicates the project could be inching forward, making for a new piece of the Middle East jigsaw that global shipping and logistics planners will need to take into account.
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