The newly-developed Khalifa bin Salman port (KBSP) in Bahrain, earlier scheduled to start operations last month, will open for business in April, a senior official at APM terminals which manages the port revealed yesterday.
The process of migrating from the existing Mina Salman port will begin on April 1 and will be conducted in several stages that will include shifting of all equipment for general cargo, container and passenger vessels.
"The port will be fully operational at the end of April. APM will run both Mina Salman and KBSP ports simultaneously during the one month migration period," Iain Rawlinson, APM terminal's General Manager for Sales and Marketing told Emirates Business on the sidelines of the Middle East ports development 2009 conference in Dubai.
"All the infrastructural work at the port has been finalised, we do not anticipate any further delays in the existing schedule."
The $530 million (Dh1,947m) port located in the Hidd area of northern Bahrain is projected to provide an overall capacity of 2.5 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) and to act as a transshipment hub focusing on the Upper Gulf, including Iran and Iraq.
APM Terminals is part of AP Moller Maersk Group and operates ports worldwide, providing container-shipping lines with marine container terminal services.
The operator signed a 25-year concession for KBSP and the existing Mina Salman Port in November 2006 and has already invested more than $60m in modern equipment and systems. With approximately 900,000 square metres of land, the KBSP port, also known as the Bahrain gateway, will offer a range of services including 'standard' operations such as servicing container vessels, break bulk cargo, Ro-Ro vessels, livestock vessels and cruise vessels, as well as providing marine services, including the use of tug boats and pilotage.
It has 1,800 metres of berthing, including 900 metres for container ships, four post-Panamax cranes, 10 rubber-tyre gantry cranes and four smaller mobile cranes. "The port is well positioned to cater for the small but growing market in the upper Gulf. We anticipate a spike in trade volumes in this part of the Gulf, especially in Iraq, which has shown a lot of potential," said Rawlinson.
He said despite the slack performance of the dry bulk and container shipping sectors in the past six months, the Middle East region remains buoyant and will remain attractive for long term investments.
He noted that the Bahrain government is looking at adding capacity to about five million TEUs in the coming years on the back of anticipated growth in trade volumes. The process of land reclamation began in 1998 and was completed in mid-2004, while actual infrastructure construction began in October 2006.
Rawlinson said future trade in the region will add pressure on existing port capacity. He said while throughput at Middle Eastern ports is projected to grow at an average of 11.3 per cent annually between 2007 and 2013, average annual growth for port capacity is projected to be 5.7 per cent in the same period.