Bahrain port traffic set to treble
By ARTHUR MACDONALD, January 18, 2008
The amount of container traffic going through Bahrain is expected to more than treble within five years of the opening of the new Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman port.
And the number of cruise ships coming to the deep water facility is also likely to be a major boost for the kingdom's economy as more tourists disembark at the dedicated cruse ship berths and visit the malls and suqs.
APM Terminals, who took over running the Mina Salman port just over a year ago, has already made vast improvements in the speed and efficiency of the operation, but the move to the new port will be a quantum leap for the operations according to APM's managing director in Bahrain Steen Davidsen.
With a draught of 15 metres, the new port will be able to berth ships twice the size of the current port allowing vessels with a capacity of up to 8,000 20ft container equivalents (TEU), the largest ships of their kind that come into Gulf waters. That compares with the present capacity of 3,000 TEU ships.
'This increase in the size of ships we can bring into the port is the key to us expanding from a straight forward import export port to become a transshipment hub for the upper Gulf,' said Davidsen.
'At present transshipment is carried out at the Jebel Ali port in Dubai but the increased capacity will make bringing the container ship to Bahrain, offloading and then transporting on feeders ships from here far more economic and quicker.
'Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman port is the ideal hub for the Northern Gulf because it is within a days steaming time of all the local ports.
'We are already talking to shipping lines and setting up the network that will make using Bahrain a more economic alternative. This will allow us to launch the port into this new venture and greatly increase traffic.
He said the vastly improved facilities combined with modern handling equipment would be able to have a very quick turn round and have enough spare capacity to ensure ships arriving late could still be accommodated immediately.'
If container ships could be guaranteed a quick turn round, say in six hours rather than 10 then this gave them an extra four hours which would allow them to steam at a slower speed, saving valuable fuel, he said.
'With the cost of crude at $100 a barrel the savings on slow steaming are vast,' he said.
Davidsen took over as managing director of the port in October and inherited an operation that needed investment.
'In the run up to privatisation some investments were put on hold and much of the equipment dated back to the early 1980s and was not up to modern standards,' he said.
APM has already invested more than $60 million in modern equipment and systems and is already reaping the benefits before the move.
'When we took over the port was managing six to 10 container movements per hour,' he said.
'In the space of a year we have improved that to 30 an hour.'
The time it takes for a truck to enter and then leave the port having made its delivery has been reduced from two hours to 30 minutes.
The port is expecting the delivery of four ship-to-shore cranes which are expected to arrive by the end of April for installation and will be used for training until the swap over.
These cranes, costing between $5 million and $7 million will greatly increase the reach and height of the old cranes and will ensure no ships have to turn round to complete offloading.
While the move has been specifically designed to upgrade and increase the capacity for container and bulk cargo, the deepwater port will also allow larger cruise ships to berth in a dedicated passenger terminal and that is likely to increase the number of tourists coming to Bahrain, he said.
'Improving our position in this luxury tourist will be a major boost for the economy,' he added.
'We have one ship coming in this week which will have 5,000 p