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CMA CGM investing $33M in Port of Beirut container terminal

Contract includes rebuilding of Lebanese port decimated by 2020 explosion

The damage from a devastating explosion at the Port of Beirut remained in July 2021, nearly a year after the massive blast. (Photo: Shutterstock)

CMA CGM Group said Thursday it will invest $33 million to rebuild and modernize the Port of Beirut container terminal as part of a 10-year operating contract.

The terminal was run by the Beirut Container Terminal Consortium (BCTC) at the time of the early August 2020 explosion that obliterated Lebanon’s principal port, leveled surrounding neighborhoods, injured more than 6,500 people and killed over 200.

The blast was blamed on 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in one of 12 warehouses at the port. 

Management of the terminal went to bid in November. Worldakkam reported that Lebanon’s minister of public works and transport, Ali Hamieh, said CMA CGM provided “better rates and better conditions” than competitor Gulftainer.

CMA CGM, which announced Thursday  it will take over management of the container terminal in March, said it will spend $19 million of its $33 million investment over the next two years. That will go toward refurbishment, replacement and acquisition of port equipment; construction of a facility for maintenance and parts storage; digital transformation of the terminal; and environmental performance improvements that include the purchase of eco-friendly equipment. 

“Faithful to our commitments to Lebanon, we will be launching shortly an ambitious investment plan that will transform the Beirut port’s container terminal into a state-of-the-art facility that meets the best international standards,” CMA CGM Chairman and CEO Rodolphe Saadé said in a statement. “It will be at the service of the Lebanese people and will revitalize the economic exchanges between Lebanon and the rest of the world.”

France-headquartered CMA CGM Group noted in its press release that it was founded in Lebanon 43 years ago and that it currently accounts for about 55% of the Port of Beirut terminal’s volumes. CMA CGM acquired the container terminal at Lebanon’s second commercial port, in Tripoli, last year. CMA CGM Group is invested in 52 port terminals in 33 countries. 

CMA CGM has about 1,000 employees throughout Lebanon and plans to hire an additional 400 over the next year. 

CMA CGM’s office in Beirut was severely damaged during the August 2020 explosion, and at least one employee died. CMA CGM said at the time that it had 261 employees based at the Beirut facility and that two had been seriously hurt and many others suffered minor injuries.

A CMA CGM vessel, the Lyra, was at the Port of Beirut at the time of the explosion but the vessel, with a carrying capacity of 11,400 twenty-foot equivalent units, was not damaged. 

MSC, Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd are among the other major carriers that call the Port of Beirut. Hapag-Lloyd’s office in Lebanon was destroyed by the explosion. 

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Click here for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills.

Kim Link Wills

Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills has written about everything from agriculture as a reporter for Illinois Agri-News to zoology as editor of the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine. Her work has garnered awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Magazine Association of the Southeast. Prior to serving as managing editor of American Shipper, Kim spent more than four years with XPO Logistics.