The government of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has been dealt a blow with news that the Dubai Ports Authority (DPA) has cancelled a $225 contract to equip and operate a new port in Beirut.
The future of Beirut's new container terminal is in doubt following news that the Dubai Ports Authority (DPA), the contracted operator of the facility, was negotiating to sell the equipment it purchased for the terminal but never installed, reported the Daily Star newspaper.
Elie Zakhour, chairman of Beirut's International Chamber of Shipping, said the ministry of transport and DPA are "trying to reach an agreement by selling equipment to the Port of Beirut in order to install it at the new terminal."
The implication of the equipment sale is that DPA will pull out of the 20-year deal it signed with the Port of Beirut in 1998, under which DPA was to equip and manage the facility and generate revenues by handling containers, said the paper.
A senior political source confirmed that the ministry and the DPA were in separation talks for "an amicable divorce with the least political damage." A pullout by DPA would further delay the introduction of a modern container facility that would ease the import process.
Zakhour said that his association welcomed the sell-off if it "helps solve the conflict" between both parties and reduces the time it takes to get the terminal running, the paper added. "If they reach an agreement with DPA then we understand the Port of Beirut will make a new international tender for the management of the terminal," said Zakhour.
DPA did not give a specific reason for its actions. But insiders report that officials at the authority have been unhappy with bureaucratic delays that have held up construction. Complaints also have been made about the Lebanese government delaying the streamlining of customs procedures. — (Albawaba-MEBG)
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