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Lebanon port ready for Syria’s post-war windfall

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(17 Aug 2017) The port of Tripoli in northern Lebanon wants the world to know it's ready for business. After six years of civil war in Syria, markets across the Middle East anticipate a mammoth reconstruction boom once peace arrives, a windfall that could bring in billions in economic activity. Lebanon, Syria's tiny neighbour, is in prime position to capture a share of that money and revive its own sluggish economy.Ahmad Tamer, Tripoli's port manager, estimates that Syria's reconstruction will create a demand for 30 million tonnes of cargo capacity annually. But according to Tamer Syria's main ports, Tartous and Latakia, also on the Mediterranean, only have a combined capacity of 10 to 15 million tonnes, that's why he wants Tripoli port to be ready to step in for the rest. The port is nearing the completion of the first phase of an expansion project first drawn up in 2009, and then revised with an eye on Syria in 2016. Capital investment has reached around 400 million US dollars, according to the port manager. On a map, Tamer pointed to a vacant quadrant where preparations are underway to build silos to hold grain destined for regional markets. The port signed a 25-year lease with the Emirati operator Gulftainer to manage the terminal. Ibrahim Hermes, the CEO of Gulftainer's Lebanese subsidiary says he expects cargo to start moving to Syria by late 2018.Before the war in Syria, goods coming through Lebanon's ports used to transit as far afield as Iraq, saving ships from having to take the sea journey through the Suez Canal and around the Arabian Peninsula. There is talk now that Tripoli could even be a terminal to China's trillion-dollar new "Silk Road" project, carving a trade route from East Asia to Europe. The World Bank estimates the cost to rebuild Syria at 200 billion US dollars. For Lebanon, that could be just the stimulus it needs - the tiny Mediterranean country's growth rate has hovered around 1.5 percent since 2013. Although the capital, Beirut, has grown visibly richer over the years, Tripoli and the impoverished north have lagged behind. "Lebanon is in front of an opportunity that it needs to take very seriously," said Raya al-Hassan, a former finance minister from northern Lebanon who now directs the Tripoli Special Economic Zone project that's planned to be built adjacent to the port. Europe and the United States are hesitant to finance the reconstruction projects so long as Assad, a pariah to the West, remains in power. But Lebanon won't be standing idly by."As soon as there is a political agreement to end the war, we will be among the first countries to play a role in reconstruction," said al-Hassan.You can license this story through AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/you... Find out more about AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/HowWeWork

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AP Archive 4111253 917a2a33c886a3ae3b1c1202d6793e03 Lebanon Syria Port Beirut Lebanon Middle East China Greater China East Asia Syria Business Government and politics
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