Libya Dreams of Mega Port in History-Laden East
A white foundation stone next to a deserted beach near the soporific Libyan port of Susah is all to show for a seven-year dream to build one of North Africa’s biggest ports.
Reuters, February 13, 2019, By Ulf Laessing and Ayman Warfalli
SUSAH, Libya (Reuters) - A white foundation stone next to a deserted beach near the soporific Libyan port of Susah is all to show for a seven-year dream to build one of North Africa’s biggest ports.
Yet officials say Libya is now in final talks to award a U.S. firm a $1.5 billion deal to set up a “mega port” intended to transform the picturesque coast where families go for picnics into a vast container hub.
Texas-based security firm Guidry Group confirmed to Reuters it planned to sign a 35-year deal to build and operate the project in a region once occupied by the ancient Greeks, before handing it back to the local authority.
Such major foreign investment would be rare for Libya, in chaos and conflict since the 2011 toppling of Muammar Gaddafi.
“The biggest container ships will be able to dock,” enthused one of the project’s main architects, Salah Elhasi, who heads the eastern port authority, in his modest villa-turned-office.
Abdalla Al Hasse, a consultant for Guidry, said sea depth of up to 40 meters (130 feet) would enable containers to load goods on smaller vessels headed for other Libyan cities as well as neighbors like Egypt or Tunisia without similar ports.
Ravaged by fighting between rival groups and split into different administrations, Libya urgently needs jobs for youths who otherwise look to a bloated public sector or take up guns to earn their daily bread.
Beyond oil, Libya has little successful economic activity, even importing milk. The port could provide 2,500 jobs.
Guidry wants to win local and foreign investment to help with financing and would like to start construction in October, Al Hasse said.
“Funding for the Port of Susah project is expected to come from a variety of sources, including international multilateral agencies, major financial institutions and international project finance investors as this project is a public private partnership,” Guidry said in an email.
The company has traditionally specialized in kidnap and ransom resolution, but now wants to expand into infrastructure.
“Libya is ripe for business and investment right now. I do not want the Chinese or the Russians in Libya first,” CEO Michael Guidry was quoted as saying in the Libya Herald last year. “I want to get a foothold in there now.”