Lebanese ports have maintained their significant regional role since Phoenician times, facilitating trade and reinforcing the area’s strong maritime tradition. Shipping is centered around the Beirut and Tripoli hubs, and according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Lebanon’s Liner Shipping Connectivity Index (LSCI) score improved, from 12.5 in 2005 to 30.3 in 2010, largely due to the successful expansion of maritime trade services. Lebanon performed relatively well vis-à-vis its regional and global competitors; the country ranked 39th out of 161 countries globally and came seventh out of 17 countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
The Port of Beirut is Lebanon’s biggest maritime facility, with 90% of all imported goods passing through it. The port has a total area of 1.2 million sqm, with advanced facilities including more than 77,000 sqm of warehouse space, 120,000 tons of silo capacity, and 32,400 sqm of industrial complex. The container terminal has a stacking area of 365,000 sqm with an annual capacity of 745,000 TEUs. The port’s 66 mobile cranes can handle single-load cargo of up to 300 tons.
Strong infrastructure at the port is working to support the growing levels of goods passing through its facilities of late. Over the 2010-2011 period cargo volume increased by 8% from 600 million to 648 million tons. Furthermore, in August 2011, 42,343 containers passed through the port, 27% higher than the 33,223 containers registered in the same period in 2010.
The Lebanese government has also undertaken a series of expansion projects to promote the port’s historical significance. The $128 million first phase will see the expansion of quay 16 by approximately 600 meters to the mouth of the Beirut River by 2012—a development that will increase the stacking area by 180,000 sqm. Furthermore, the annual container terminal capacity will reach 1.5 million TEUs. In the second phase, the quay length will be increased to 2.3 kilometers and annual processing capacity at the terminal will reach 2.1 million TEUs.
Lebanon’s second largest port is the Port of Tripoli, located 30 kilometers from the Syrian border. The port enjoys a land area of 320,000 sqm and features an additional free trade zone of 150,000 sqm. Furthermore, an expansion area of 420,000 sqm is reserved for a future container terminal and free trade zone. Currently, a new 15-meter deep and 600-meter long berth is under construction, which will later be expanded to around 1,200 meters.
Hopes are high for the potential of Tripoli’s maritime facilities, especially in terms of cross-border trade with neighbor Syria. “[The port of Tripoli] could be the ideal multi-modal port today because it has a flat-road network to three border checkpoints with Syria. It also has a railroad connection to the Syrian network and through the Syrian network to other countries,” Georges T. Kurban, General Manager of CMA CMG, told TBY.
Parliament has additionally granted free economic zone status to an external area of 1.2 million sqm adjacent to the port. According to the development plan, in which private sector participation is highly anticipated, the zone will host a wide range of modern facilities including refrigerated warehouses and industrial complexes for light assembly. The expansion plan will be further supported by the construction of new highways and the establishment of a rail link to Syria. With its enhanced infrastructure, the strategically located port will enable Lebanon to take full advantage of its bilateral free trade agreements with Syria, Jordan, and Turkey.
© The Business Year