These include port projects. We focused in the past six months, through field visits and tours, on the development of the northern and southern Umm Qasr ports and Khor Abdullah and al-Maqal ports, and we received bids from Iraqi and international companies to develop and operate the ports.
There is also the river taxi project. This project is not a mere transportation project. It has an urban dimension. Tens of centuries ago, Iraqis were using rivers for transportation. Our ancestors used watercraft, boats, catamarans and so on. … and here we are in the 21st century, unable to take advantage of important rivers. This project brings back Baghdad's prestige and proper image.
Al-Monitor: The river taxi project does not seem as successful as you are saying. It was originally a faltering project, and does not quite fulfill the purpose for which it was established.
Zubeidi: That is right. The project does not exactly achieve what I had hoped for, and the Ministry of Transport’s aspirations go beyond this. The reason why the project has not kicked off as we wanted is the exceptional situation in the country. There are many problems and obstacles, most notably the security problem and poor [resource] allocations. But the project can be improved, and that is what we are working on. We successfully implemented [something similar] in Basra, and now we are trying to implement it in Maysan and Wasit.
Al-Monitor: Basra seems to have a share in all projects. What is the secret behind all the interest given to Basra?
Zubeidi: Basra is the only water port in Iraq. Iraq’s ports and marine docks are all located in Basra, and our rivers flow into Basra, a city that meets all the conditions to be an economic capital. The project there was tendered a long time ago, and the Ministry of Transport is making great efforts to ensure its success since it will give the country important economic returns. Another reason for the interest in the city of Basra is that it still suffers in the aftermath of the Iran-Iraq War.
There is a large number of ships and other remnants of war in the Shatt al-Arab. We have begun to exert intensive efforts to remove them, and the General Company for Ports of Iraq, affiliated to the Ministry of Transport, has successfully removed more than 79 pieces of sunken ships and warships, and efforts are still ongoing and continuous in this field.