As Lebanon continues to seek to rebuild the Port of Beirut almost four years after the ammonium nitrate explosion, France has come forward with a new proposal. At a conference in Beirut this week, Lebanese and French officials revealed the port’s reconstruction and re-organization plan.

The proposal aims to repair the damaged infrastructure, optimize the port layout for better traffic flow, and enable the transition to the use of solar power. However, the proposal does not address the rebuilding of the grain silos, which experienced the most impact during the blast.

Two French engineering firms, Artelia and Egis, were involved in the development of the plan through funding from the French government. Another French public agency Expertise France, conducted a study with recommendations on how to improve security at the Port of Beirut.

“The plan has been accepted and the port’s revenue will be used to finance the required investments,” Lebanon’s transport and public works minister Ali Hamie told the French newspaper Le Monde.

Restoration of the state’s infrastructure destroyed during the explosion is estimated at $60 to 80 million. However, this cost rises to $140 million while accounting for private companies’ infrastructure which was impacted, according to a 2021 assessment by USAID’s Middle East Economic Growth Project.

With the restoration costs expected to come from the port’s revenue, Director General of the Port of Beirut Omar Itani noted that there have been several positive changes after the disaster. He highlighted that revenues increased to nearly $150 million in 2023 from a low of $9 million in 2020. The number of containers handled also rose to 800,000 TEUs last year from around 600,000 TEUs in 2022. However, this is still low compared to the 1.2 million TEUs that the port handled in 2019 before the explosion.

France was among the first responders, with President Emmanuel Macron visiting the country on August 6, 2020, two days after the explosion. At the time, Macron promised to rally international players for financial support to the Lebanese people.

This week, the French ambassador to Lebanon Hervé Magro reiterated France’s support for Lebanon. “The Lebanese economy needs a port that has been rebuilt, modernized, and made safe. The French government has made the issue of the port a priority and one of the pillars of French cooperation with Lebanon,” said Magro.

In 2022, CMA Terminals, a subsidiary of the ocean carrier CMA CGM won a ten-year concession to run and manage the Port of Beirut’s container terminal. The firm pledged to invest $33 million in the terminal, focused mainly on replacing, renewing, and purchasing new equipment.

Besides France, Germany in 2021 also presented a comprehensive proposal to rebuild the port, in addition to redeveloping more than 100 hectares of the surrounding area, including residential developments.

Egis in the Middle East wrote on LinkedIn:

Egis and Artelia collaborate for the reconstruction and reorganization of Beirut Port following the tragic events of August 4, 2020.

This comprehensive project encompasses the entire port area, excluding the container terminal. Key aspects include:
-Rebuilding damaged quays: Restoring vital infrastructure to ensure the port’s functionality.
-Streamlined traffic flow: Reorganizing the port layout for improved efficiency and safety.
-Sustainable future: Transitioning the port to solar power with the expertise of EDF, a leading French energy company.

The development plan, generously funded by the French government, was unveiled last week by Egis and Artelia with the Beirut Regional Economic Department (Service économique régional de Beyrouth) acknowledging the projects significant impact on Lebanon’s economic and financial well-being.

This partnership is committed to working alongside Lebanese authorities and partners to deliver a revitalized port that fosters economic growth and stability for Lebanon.

Source: The Maritime Executive