|07 September, 2019

Beirut port committee to be scrapped

Lebanon's PM said that the government would seek to end the committee’s management soon, and “move toward either a private company or a public-private partnership.”

Image used for illustrative purpose. Foreign passengers (L) walk at Beirut international airport after their flight to Europe was cancelled, April 16, 2010.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Foreign passengers (L) walk at Beirut international airport after their flight to Europe was cancelled, April 16, 2010.

REUTERS/Jamal Saidi

BEIRUT: The temporary management committee at the Port of Beirut will be scrapped and replaced with a private company or a public-private partnership, Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Friday. The port has been managed by a so-called temporary committee since 1990, according to the port’s official website. The committee was never meant to be permanent.

Hariri added that the government would seek to end the committee’s management soon, and “move toward either a private company or a public-private partnership.”

A ministerial committee dedicated to the transition is to be formed soon, he explained, adding that Public Works and Transport Minister Youssef Fenianos and Hassan Kraytem, head of the Beirut Port Authority, were currently “working on this matter.”

The port’s 1.3 million containers per year make it “one of the most important ports in the region,” he continued. In 2013, the facility received a $140 million cash injection extending the wharf from 600 to 1100 meters long, and increasing the basin to 16.5 meters deep.

“The big achievement is that since the private sector [entered], it has shown the success of this sector. In 2000, the Port of Beirut was receiving between 50,000 and 100,000 containers,” he continued.

Hariri thanked the port’s Board of Directors and everyone who “worked hard” to achieve the growth. “We will move toward a new stage, because the whole world is changing and we must accompany this change,” he said.

Hariri also congratulated “the administration and the staff on the speed of transporting the containers saying that “Lebanon deserves to receive the gold medal on such matters, and this shows that we can do immense work. But corruption within the port remains rampant, and combatting it should remain one of the main considerations alongside “implementing reforms, adopting advanced laws and stop smuggling,” Hariri continued.

“I am not saying that there is no problem in smuggling, there is a problem, and this issue must be addressed by the military forces,” Hariri said. But he pointed out that “ending smuggling is not the task of the temporary committee, but a duty of the security services, customs and military forces.”

In 2017, Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil promised a “strategy to improve the performance of Customs departments” aiming to stamp out corruption at the port. Corruption within the port alone is estimated to cost the state more than $1 billion in revenue each year.

Last month the minister toured the port and warned that “as of today, there is no [cover] over anybody’s head at customs. The right of the state is for the state only.”

Hariri added that Khalil would soon submit a draft Customs law so that “we can control our ports, airport and so on.”

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