Lebanon has awarded France’s CMA CGM a contract to develop and operate the container terminal in Beirut port for 10 years, including plans to rebuild and expand infrastructure damaged in a massive chemical explosion in 2020.
CMA CGM said it would invest $33 million, including $19 million over the first two years to upgrade infrastructure at the terminal and digitalise operations, and that it would target capacity of 1.4 million 20ft equivalent units (TEUs), up from 650,000 currently.
The deal expands CMA CMG’s presence in the eastern Mediterranean. The shipping group, which is controlled by the French-Lebanese Saade family, fully acquired the container terminal at Tripoli port in northern Lebanon in 2021 and has a presence at Latakia port in Syria.
CMA CMG Chairman and CEO Rodolphe Saade said the Beirut contract envisaged transforming the terminal into a “state-of-the-art facility” that would “revitalize the economic exchanges between Lebanon and the rest of the world.”
International companies would pay for port services in dollars, which would go to the cash-starved public treasury, Public Works and Transport minister Ali Hamie said at a news conference.
CMA CGM would receive fees fixed at $11 plus 285,000 Lebanese pounds (about $14.30 at the prevalent, unofficial exchange rate) per TEU, he added.
The August 2020 explosion killed more than 200 people and damaged entire neighborhoods, deepening Lebanon’s worst political and economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
CMA CGM joined French President Emmanuel Macron in relief efforts in Beirut after the blast.
Though the port soon resumed operations, parts of it are still littered with debris and badly damaged storage facilities, and administrative buildings have yet to be repaired or replaced.
CMA CGM had previously outlined plans to Lebanese authorities for a separate $400 million to $600 million proposal to reconstruct the rest of the port.