Reuters, quoting Iraq's Minister for Transport, reports that a tender will be issued by the end of this year for the building of the multibillion-dollar 'Grand Faw' port south of Basra.
Talks are ongoing with investors from Australia, France, Germany, Italy and the UAE to help finance the project.
After a presentation of the project's designs made by Technital, the Italian company that won the design contract, Minister Hadi al-Amiri said: "There are many mechanisms to (fund) the project, maybe through (foreign) investment, or soft loans ... from the government."
According to Iraq's plan, goods unloaded at the new port would then be loaded onto a 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.
"God willing, the first stage of the project will be finished by the end of 2013," Amiri said.
The project will be built in two stages and is expected to take about four years to complete. It will include 7,000 metres (23,000 feet) of dock to receive container ships. The dock for general cargo would be 3,500 metres (11,500 feet).
The commercial port will also include two docks for unloading oil products.
Alberto Scotti, president of Technital, put the estimated cost of the project at around 4.5 billion Euros [$6.31 billion, 7.38 trillion Iraqi dinars].