Reuters reports that Iraq will next month invite foreign firms to submit bids for the planned construction of a $6 billion port south of Basra, which together with a new rail system will create a regional transport conduit to rival the Suez Canal.
Iraq is also seeking investors to build 8,000 km (4,970 miles) of new rail line, including a $3 billion railway network around Baghdad.
The construction of the new port, and the expansion of the country’s existing 2,000 km (1,200 miles) of railway, is part of a drive to modernise public infrastructure and kick-start Iraq’s economy now that major new oil contracts have been signed.
“This port will be considered the 10th most important in the world because it will connect the Gulf with northern Europe”, Transport Minister Amer Abdul-Jabbar told Reuters on Sunday.
The port, to be built on the Gulf south of the city of Basra, would enable the world’s biggest ships to dock in Iraq, he said, as it will have a depth of 17 meters (55 feet).
Goods, once unloaded at the new port, would then be loaded onto the new railway system and reach Europe overland more quickly than ships might reach Egypt’s Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean to the Red Sea.
“This will change the road map for world transport policy; this dry channel would be a shorter, cheaper and safer alternative,” Abdul-Jabbar said.
The port, to be called ‘Grand Faw’, will be constructed in two three-year stages. It will include 7,000 meters (23,000 feet) of dock ready to receive container ships. The dock for general cargo would be 3,500 meters (11,500 feet).