May 23, 2003
U.S. contractor taakes control at Umm Qasr
Seattle-based SSA Marine was the successful bidder for a $4.8 million contract from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to cover the reopening and operation of the port for the first year. SSA Marine describes itself as the largest privately held container terminal operator and cargo handling company in the world. It operates in 150 locations worldwide, including Panama, Mexico, Chile, South Africa and New Zealand, and employs more than 10,000 people.
Immediately following the transfer of control at Umm Qasr, SSA Marine managed the discharge of its first humanitarian aid ship at the port.
A team from SSA Marine arrived in the region at the beginning of April to develop a fact-finding report and implementation plan for the port, and has since established a full management staff that is responsible for ongoing operations.
"The British Military has done a fantastic job overseeing the port under difficult circumstances, as well as working to bring much-needed humanitarian aid cargo into the country. It has been invaluable to have had their guidance as we work towards making this port as operationally effective as possible," said Captain T. Fergus Moran, leader of the SSA Marine operations team at Umm Qasr. Capt. Moran is a former ship officer who has worked for SSA Marine in Northern California, Bangladesh and India.
The first ship to call at the port yesterday was the M/V Irazou, carrying 14,400 metric tons of bagged rice. SSA Marine will employ approximately 200 Iraqi laborers to complete the discharge of the M/V Irazou.
"This is an important first step as we begin operations at this strategic location, the only seaport with deep-water access in Iraq," explained Bob Watters, vice president, SSA Marine, who is overseeing the project. "Umm Qasr has for years been the main point of entry for all humanitarian supplies and commercial cargo to the country, and we are working as quickly as possible to re-establish that capacity."
SSA Marine will be working alongside other contractors who are making the necessary infrastructure improvements and repairs to the port facility.