The Libera tanker is moored off Lebanon's Beirut port on September 17, 2021. (Photo by Joseph EID / AFP)

France’s CMA CGM gets Beirut container terminal

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French shipping giant CMA CGM on Thursday won a 10-year contract beginning in March to run the container terminal at Beirut port, Lebanon’s public works and transport minister said.

CMA CGM — the third largest shipping company in the world — will take over Lebanon’s biggest port a year and a half after a deadly explosion there killed more than 200 people and destroyed large parts of the capital.

“An agreement has been reached to sign a contract to manage, operate and maintain the container terminal at Beirut’s port with CMA CGM,” Ali Hamie told reporters in Beirut.

The contract will provide the cash-strapped state “tens of millions of dollars” every year, he said, adding that authorities chose the French company over its UAE-based competitor Gulftainer because it offered a better rate and more favourable conditions.

CMA CGM  said it was launching a $33 million “ambitious investment plan to renovate and modernise” the container terminal, where its vessels already accounted for more than half of the traffic.

As part of the plan, the company will upgrade equipment, build a new hangar for maintenance and storage, and improve sustainability and digital performance at the container terminal.

The company’s French-Lebanese CEO Rodolphe Saade said his firm was looking to develop a “high-performance” container terminal that could renew Lebanon’s trade ties.

Lebanon launched the tender in November. The previous contract, held by the Beirut Container Terminal Consortium (BCTC), initially expired in March 2020 but was later extended.

The container terminal accounts for roughly 85 percent of the Beirut port’s traffic, the ministry of public works and transportation said.

It was functional within a week of the August 2020 port blast, and 10 of its 16 cranes were still operating last November.

Saade visited Beirut with French President Emmanuel Macron in the wake of the blast and offered a plan to reconstruct the entire Beirut port in less than three years.

His company, which manages several investment portfolios in Lebanon, also operates the container terminal at the Tripoli port, the country’s second-largest.

Lebanese authorities are counting on international contracts for hard currency, two years into an economic crisis branded by the World Bank as one of the worst in modern times. (AFP)