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Kuwait Progresses Port Aimed at Cornering Gulf Container Trade

Kuwait’s Mubarak Al-Kabeer container port project, designed to tap a hinterland spanning Syria to Iran, has concluded construction of external infrastructure links and most of the first phase of dock walls.

About two-thirds of work on a 1.2-kilometer (0.7-mile) quay and land reclamation has been completed, together with road and railway bridges, according to URS Corp., which is managing the development on Boubyan Island at the head of the Persian Gulf.

Mubarak Al-Kabeer, slated to open in 2017 and handle 1.8 million standard containers a year, forms part of a $110 billion investment program to diversify Kuwait’s oil-reliant economy. Plans for the port have led to tensions with neighboring Iraq, which aims to tap a similar market with the $6 billion Grand Fao facility to be built 20 kilometers away to the south of Basra.

“The project is going extremely well,” Richard Hoyes, San Francisco-based URS’s technical director for the Middle East, said today in a telephone interview from Kuwait’s Free Trade Zone. “Two bridges for rail and cars are well advanced.”

URS was engaged by Kuwait’s Ministry of Public Works in 2010 to supervise a $1.2 billion design and build contract.

Hyundai Engineering & Construction Co., based in Seoul, holds the construction contract in a joint venture with Kuwait’s Kharafi Group. While no value has been given for the work, estimates suggest it’s likely to reach about $5 billion.

With construction progressing on phase one of the plan, which includes a 500-meter harbor-master quay for smaller boats, Kuwait will look at ways to bring in private firms to manage the port, he said. The second phase includes 3.3 kilometers of quay due to open at the end of 2019, while the final leg features a power plant and is scheduled for completion in 2020.

“The port is ideally situated to support development in the region and will be in competition with other ports in the area so will need to be state-of-the-art,” Hoyes said.

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