By Brototi Roy:
TheÂ Port of BeirutÂ is the main port inÂ LebanonÂ located on the eastern part of theÂ Saint George BayÂ on Beirut’s northern Mediterranean coast, west of theÂ Beirut River. It is one of the largest and busiest ports on the EasternÂ Mediterranean.Â TheÂ Port of BeirutÂ and Beirut Rafic Hariri International AirportÂ are the main ports of entry into the country.
The port is operated and managed by theÂ Gestion et exploitation du port de Beyrouth (GEPB) ,Â which isÂ FrenchÂ forÂ Port Authority of Beirut. Container terminal operations are subcontracted to a private consortium called theÂ Beirut Container Terminal Consortium (BCTC).
Since the end of theÂ Lebanese Civil WarÂ in 1990, the port has gone through a major updating and expansion program with the rehabilitation of existing port facilities, the construction of new administration buildings, and the construction of a new container terminal. It’s an important gateway for transporting freight toÂ Syria,Â Jordan,Â Iraq, and theÂ Gulf States.The Port of Beirut has been selected as aÂ transshipment hubÂ for the 2nd and 3rd largest container shipping companies in the world, Swiss-basedMediterranean Shipping CompanyÂ (MSC)Â and French-basedÂ Compagnie Maritime d’AffrÃ¨tement – Compagnie GÃ©nÃ©rale MaritimeÂ (CMA-CGM). The latter is currently in the process of building a $12 million regional headquarters building near the port.
The passenger terminal is located along quay 5 facing the second basin of the port. The facility was deemed outdated and inadequate, so it is presently being reconstructed into a modern 600m2Â facility that will have a decorative front sail structure. It is scheduled for completion early this year.
The historic first basin of the port, which presently hosts theÂ Beirut Naval Base, will be completely redeveloped byÂ Solidere, the $2 billion Lebanese real estate company that is rebuilding theÂ Beirut Central DistrictÂ (BCD). The redevelopment will involve transforming quays 1 and 2 into a public promenade along with the construction of leisure commercial properties.
The Port of Beirut has performed much better than other economic sectors in Lebanon as commercial activity reached all-time high this year. Until December, the port had already handled 945,000 containers, so it is hoped that the figure will pass the 1 million container mark by the end of 2011. This would put the Beirut Port along with the world’s biggest 100 international ports.
On the flipside fearing that the port was reaching its full capacity, expansion plans for 2013 should not be delayed if not possibly completed ahead of schedule. The upgrade will also contribute significantly to eliminating delays and pressure on staff and equipment caused by the increasing activity. The overcrowding had already caused ships to wait as long as three days to process shipments at the seaport.