Major terminals and cargo facilities are eyed for a number of ports

Of all the plans envisaged for the Egyptian ports, privatisation is not one of them. When he announced expansion plans in 2014, Ibrahim El Demeiry, the former minister of transport, was quite adamant about the state retaining control of the nation’s 15 main commercial ports, which between them have 32.4 km of berths and cover an area of 481.54 sq km, counting both land and sea. In common with other areas of the economy, those plans call for radical growth. El Demeiry said the government wanted to increase the annual level of trade handled at the ports from 120m tonnes currently to 370m tonnes. To achieve this, a national ports development plan has been drawn up, calling for investment of at least LE87bn ($12.4bn) up to 2050.

The LE87bn ($12.4bn) will be split into two main parts. The first phase has been given a price tag of LE50bn ($7.1bn) with the target of raising total port capacity by 2030 to 370m tonnes annually by handling 24m containers. The present figure is 6m containers. In the two decades of phase two – up to 2050 – the other LE37bn ($5.3bn) is intended to raise total tonnage to 600m annually and 40m containers.

Damietta Port

One of the first places to see major works is the Damietta Port, which was allocated $9.6m to dredge 1m cu metres of material so it can accommodate larger vessels. Establishing a global logistics centre for grain and food commodities “is a large national project no less important than the Suez Canal project”, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab said when giving details of the Damietta works. A Cabinet statement said the centre would cover 3.35m sq metres, of which 560,000 sq metres fall within the port itself, while the other 2.79m sq metres would be drawn from an unused industrial area north-east of the port.

A statement from the Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade, which is an integral partner in the plan, said the project includes two 650- to 700-metre sea piers, dredged to 17 metres deep for ships carrying up to 150,000 tonnes of grain. A separate river pier 1200 metres long and 5-6 metres deep will be added along with three new storage areas with a combined capacity of 7.5m tonnes that will quadruple Egypt’s current 2.5m tonnes of space. The ministry said advanced technology systems would cut operational costs by moving grain as few times as possible and at a rate of at least 16,000 tonnes per hour. The system would electronically monitor and manage marine operations, freight, allocation, inspection and Customs clearance.

Five investment and industrial zones for grains and food commodities will be built on a space totalling more than 1.7m sq metres. The first will be for mills to produce flour for local consumption as well as for export, while the second will be dedicated to manufacturing soy. The third and fourth will cover oil, starch and fructose extraction for the former and distilling and packaging sugar at the latter. The last zone will be designated to complementary industries, including macaroni, pastries, burgers and various other foods.

The ministry said the project would increase the annual capacity of marine trading of grains and food commodities in Damietta Port five-fold from 7m-8m tonnes to 40m tonnes, 12m tonnes of which would be re-exported locally. Mahlab said a road bridge to the expanded storage area would allow access for trucks. The quantities envisaged show a clear intention on Egypt’s part not only to put its own food security on a very solid basis but also to create a regular income for the state by being the procurer and initial distributor of millions of tonnes of food for other countries.

Port Said

Two of three phases of dredging the quays at the West Port Said container terminals, for 300 metres and 310 metres, respectively, have been completed and a third – which is slightly longer at 320 metres – is scheduled to be finished in June 2015. “The port needs urgent renovation. The roads, the docks and the storage areas are all old and crumbling,” said Adel Lamei, the chairman of the Port Said Chamber of Shipping. Lamei added that the terminal operated by the Port Said Container and Cargo Handling Company was being developed. “Although the dredging work will be finished within a year, that is only 900 metres of the whole port,” said Lamei.

Safaga

The government has initiated the LE2.5m ($355,000) phase one of the Safaga Metallurgical Port (Abo Tartor) developments in partnership with the private sector, according to Cabinet spokesman Hossam El Kawish. He said the port will establish small, specialised industrial projects that rely on phosphate ore, which is the port’s main business anyway. The start-ups would include their logistics, transport and storage requirements to lower supply chain costs. To provide the space needed a disused area inside the port of around 810,000 sq metres will be used. “The role of the private sector for this project includes funding, construction, maintenance and operation of these projects, as well as transferring ownership when the proposed contract term for projects inside the port ends,” said El Kawish.

Port Tawfik

The Red Sea Ports Authority (RSPA) announced the building of a 250,000-sq-metre cargo terminal to “open new business opportunities and jobs” in Port Tawfik. The terminal will increase port capacity to 1.5m tonnes and create 500 jobs during construction and 2000 opportunities when operational.

Hassan Falah, chairman of the RSPA, told the local press that a station for stocking 2.5m tonnes of wheat would be established in Adabiya Port. Job creation for this project would be 700 while it was being built and 1500 permanent positions once completed.

Ferries To Saudi Arabia

Ferry services across the Red Sea from Port Tawfik to Saudi Arabia have been resumed after an absence of more than nine years. The first sailing of the Al Yusufiyyah brought in 240 passengers and left on the same day for Saudi Arabia with 700 passengers, most of them umrah pilgrims. The service is anticipated to handle 1.5m passengers and around 2m tonnes of cargo annually. Hossam Abdel Sabour, Zagazig University lecturer and insurance expert, told the local press that “administrative issues” concerning the technical specifications and capacity of ferries were the main reasons for the previous suspension of services. Regulations concerning insurance and rules about adherence to cargo load limits, particularly for ferries that carry both cargo and passengers, played a part in previous problems, he added.

Food Testing

Amid all the activity, Mohamed A Hashish, vice-president of the Egyptian International Shipping Group, sounded a cautionary note. Port delays increased the prices of imports, he said. “If a vessel lingers in port for 10 days waiting for a shipment to be discharged, of course the shipping costs will swell,” he told Al Ahram Weekly. The paper noted that the overall performance of Egyptian ports is “nearly equivalent” to that of foreign ports, according to maritime transport experts. The biggest fault over the years has been a lack of investment and the sector seems to have escaped the political troubles of the past few years unscathed. None of the companies operating in the maritime market has shut up shop, said the paper.

Whatever delays occurred, said Hashish, could not be laid at the door of the port authorities. There was neither overcrowding nor long queues at Egyptian ports, he said. “But in cases of vessels carrying food, especially wheat, the government has stated that shipments should go through certain steps to ensure they are suitable for human consumption,” Hashish explained.

Shipments are released only after samples taken by the regulatory authorities are sent for laboratory testing and returned with satisfactory results.

“In the case of wheat, they have to make sure it doesn’t contain toxic seeds and that it is free from radiation, parasites or other hazardous materials,” he said.

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