CMA CGM wins deal to operate Beirut terminal

by The Associated Press (APR) & Inside Logistics Staff

CMA CGM Group has won a 10-year contract to run the containers terminal at Beirut’s port, which was destroyed by a massive blast in 2020, Lebanon’s minister of public works and the company said Thursday.

Minister Ali Hamie told reporters in Beirut that CMA CGM met all the conditions to manage, operate and maintain the containers terminal, adding that the deal will bring to state coffers “tens of millions of dollars.”

The CMA CGM Group, which already has a strong presence in Lebanon, currently accounts for almost 55 percent of the container terminal’s volumes, since it has maintained its nine weekly calls and transshipment operations there.

Lebanon is grappling with an unprecedented economic crisis rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement by an intransigent ruling class. The deal could potentially bring badly needed hard currency to the small nation of six million people, including a million Syrian refugees.

The Aug. 4, 2020, explosion at Beirut’s port killed at least 216 people, according to official records, injured and maimed thousands and devastated entire neighborhoods of the city.

It was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history – the result of hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate igniting after a fire broke out. The explosion tore through the city with such force, it caused a tremor across the entire country that was heard and felt as far away as the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, more than 200 kilometers (180 miles) away.

The port remains wrecked, although partly functional.

Ten-year contract

CMA CGM Group said in a statement that operations will begin next month and will last for 10 years, with a target of 1.4 million TEUs annual throughput. It added that the deal includes a $33 million investment plan to rebuild and modernize the terminal, including $19 million over the first two years.

CMA CGM says the improvements will include refurbishing and replacing port equipment, and construction of a new technical facility for maintenance and spare parts storage. It will also digitize terminal operations and focus on greening the terminal through the purchase of more eco-friendly equipment.

“We will be launching shortly an ambitious investment plan that will transform Beirut port’s container terminal into a state-of-the-art facility that meets the best international standards,” said CMA CGM’s chairman and CEO Rodolphe Saade, a dual Lebanese-French citizen.

CMA CGM, founded in Lebanon 43 years ago, is already running the containers terminal in Lebanon’s second largest port in the northern city of Tripoli.

Lebanon and France have historic ties and the small Arab nation was a French protectorate after World War I until independence in 1943.