This article was written by Ahmad Wahid, and was originally published by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, iwpr.net. It is reproduced by Iraq Business News with permission. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
Thousands of Iraqis working across five ports in Basra fear they will lose their livelihoods if Kuwait presses ahead with plans to build one of the Gulf’s biggest harbours.
There are worries that once the 1.1 billion US dollar Mubarak port is completed, Iraq stands to lose up to 60 per cent of maritime traffic – mostly the larger cargo ships that already struggle to dock in Basra’s Umm Qasr, the country’s only deep-water port.
Work has started on a new port at Al-Faw close to Umm Qasr, but in May this year, the Kuwaitis began construction of the Mubarak port just over the border from the site.
The close proximity of the two developments has angered Iraqi politicians, workers and tribal leaders, who have pledged action against the Kuwaiti government.
Iraq’s transport ministry announced the 1.6 billion dollar port project for Al-Faw in 2005, with an Italian construction firm winning the contract to build the facility. Construction only got under way in 2010, with the first stage of the development planned to be complete by 2014.
The finished project, with total costs estimated to reach six billion dollars by the completion date of 2028, includes not only the port itself but infrastructure such as train lines linking Europe to the Gulf.
Iraqis say that once the new port opens, they will be as hard-hit economically as when the country was subject to sanctions in the 1990s because of the invasion of Kuwait.