The US Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a $4.8 million award to the Seattle-based Stevedoring Services of America (SSA) for assessment and management activities at the southern Iraqi port of Umm Qasr, intended by the Bush administration to serve as the lifeline of humanitarian shipments for Iraq's people.
US and British troops have struggled to secure the strategic port town of Umm Qasr where Iraqi resistance held out since last week. Australian forces have started demining Iraq's only deep-water port of Umm Qasr ahead of the arrival of planned shipments of humanitarian aid.
USAID’s announcement raised concerns in the UK that Washington would deny British firms lucrative reconstruction contracts in post-war Iraq, despite Britain's unmatched contributions to war coalition. Although USAID rules stipulate that only American firms can be named prime contractors, the US government agency promised waivers to allow foreign companies to bid as subcontractors.
In addition to being a critical component of Iraq's economic infrastructure, the southern seaport is critical to USAID's efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq, according to the agency’s press release. “SSA will be responsible for the effective operation of the port, allowing food and other humanitarian and reconstruction materials and supplies to be delivered smoothly and efficiently.”
The company, which is the largest stevedoring company in the United States, will provide an initial port assessment, develop improvement plans to overcome port-imposed constraints, and supply technical expertise to ensure an adequate flow of through shipment.
The company will be responsible for the port pilots who will guide ships up the channel, and will manage the access of trucking companies to the port and establish a system of controls to avoid theft and corruption. The marine terminal operating firm will also assist in locating and identifying obstacles that could affect the movement of shipping traffic, in coordination with local and national authorities.
Under the terms of the contract SAA will also facilitate cargo-handling services such as warehousing, shipment tracking, refrigerated and other cargo storage and the onward transport of shipments. SSA's services aim to reduce vessel turnaround time and increase vessel productivity.
“The seaport management contract is part of USAID's planned reconstruction assistance to the Iraqi people. The agency is prepared to rehabilitate critical infrastructure to help maintain stability, ensure the delivery of essential services, and facilitate economic recovery,” according to a USAID statement. — (menareport.com)
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