Durrës, Albania (PortSEurope) January 7, 2022 – The first phase of the construction of the new tourist port in Durrës – cleaning the sea and the old port area from pollutant and rubbish accumulated during the past decades – will start by April, according to Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama and Mohamed El Alabbar, the head of the Emaar Group, that is said to be
planning to invest some €2 billion ($2.43 million) into the project. Rama was also quoted as saying: “we are looking forward to starting the first phase of the project hopefully by May or June, and the work will then continue after the summer tourist season”. According to Albania’s government, the first phase of construction will begin with site clearance. Detailed designs will be submitted by April, and after that a tender for the construction will be prepared. So far there are no indications where the financing for such an ambitious project would come from. It is also difficult to figure out the business model of the new tourist port and residential complex. There is speculation that a huge amount of undeclared cash might find its way into the project. Constructing a new commercial port in a small country, without a developed industrial sector and with a reputation for wide-spread corruption is seen as an almost impossible challenge. It is also unclear how exactly the relocation of the commercial port operations will happen. In December 2020, Albania’s Top Channel broadcaster surprised everyone by announcing that the Albanian government and the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Emaar company have signed an agreement for the latter to develop part of Durrës commercial port into a tourist area dedicated to passengers and yachting. For the transport of goods, the government plans the construction of a new port in nearby Porto Romano (an oil terminal less than 10 km from port of Durrës). The value of the Emaar investment was said to be €2 billion, the largest ever in Albanian history. Experts were sceptical that such an investment is feasible in one of Europe’s poorest countries. El Alabbar said that his company is working with three environmental consultants – an American, a Belgian and a group from Dubai – without naming them. During a visit to Durrës in January, together with Rama, he also said that “the new tourist port of Durrës will be the best in the Mediterranean”. Albania is the “New Europe” and I want to be the first to go there, said Alabbar in an interview with the CNN broadcaster in April 2021. He claims the project will develop Durrës port, Albania’s largest, into a tourist area serving passengers and yachting. Asked if the image that the country has in relation to corruption hinders him, Alabbar replied that “unfortunately, Albania has a past, because of the previous governments, maybe since before the 90’s and it has faced it, it should have to pass at this stage”. The investment in Durrës is planned to be in an area of 800,000 m², with residential buildings, hotels, offices, shops, entertainment facilities, following a model that has been implemented in Dubai. Alabbar claimed that with the right partners, he wants to build the largest port (assumed to be a recreational one) on the Adriatic Sea in Durrës with over 12,000 apartments. Who are the investors? Symphony Investments is the family investments vehicle of Alabbar, Emirati businessman and founder of Emaar Properties, developer of one of the world’s tallest buildings Burj Khalifa and one of the world’s largest and most visited malls, The Dubai Mall, which are part of Emaar’s 500-acre development Downtown Dubai. Emaar had annual revenue of $6.99 billion in 2018 and a market capitalisation of over $9.7 billion. Symphony Investments is managed by Alabbar’s son Rashid. Exit News, an independent Albanian news portal which also publishes investigative stories, claimed in March 2021 that: “the awarding of the concession of the Port of Durrës to Symphony Investments, and the signing of an Agreement for Economic Cooperation, ratified by Albania’s Parliament less than a week later, violates the clauses of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) of Albania with the European Union (EU)”. The SAA lays down the stringent competition and transparency clauses for concessions and investments in Albania. It does not allow preferential treatment to be given to non-EU countries. According to Exit News, the concession, and the nature of the agreement with an Emirati company appears to bypass these provisions and prevent fair competition from firms from EU countries. Porto Romano In September 2021, Albanian Minister of Infrastructure and Energy Belinda Balluku said: “we have entered a new phase for the new port of Durres, that of Porto Romano. We are in the phase of the detailed project, which will be submitted in early April and then we start with the design of all the technical specifications that will give us the opportunity to open a tender”. Five companies have submitted in September 2021 bids for the contract to construct a new port in the area of Porto Romano in Durrës, according to Minister of Infrastructure and Energy, Belinda Balluku. Shortlisted bidders for the design of the cargo port include Spain’s Typsa; A.L.T.E.A. y Geostudio 2000, which operates in Albania and Kosovo and the Netherlands-registered Royal Haskoning DHV. Two consortia were also shortlisted: Technital, Albania’s SEED Consulting, Atelier 4 and ArchiMED; France’s Artelia, Turkey’s Yuksel Proje, Italy’s F&M Ingegneria and Albania’s ICE – Illyrian Consulting Engineers. Balluku said that Albania does not want just a port but seeks to develop a logistics hub. Such a facility would be too large for the current port, so a new facility away from the port is being considered in Porto Romano. Durrës commercial port It is important to note that in the past several years the port of Durrës is becoming the sea gate for land-locked Kosovo and North Macedonia. Its position is further strengthened with the agreed €204 million ($250.58 million) financing for infrastructure works in Albania and Kosovo from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and €77.6 million of funding from donors. Despite the relocation plans for the Durrës commercial port, in September 2021 Durres Container Terminal (DCT) became the first container terminal in the world to go live with the Navis N4Saas terminal operating system (TOS) – a cloud-based TOS that includes all the capabilities of the earlier N4 without the associated costs and complexities of deploying, maintaining and managing it. With the new system, DCT can streamline day-to-day operations and lay the groundwork for the continuous development and improvement of the terminal operation. DCT was able to roll out capabilities incrementally, starting with gate, moving to the yard and then to vessel operations, followed by equipment control and EDI exchange functionality as well as BI reporting and integrations with external systems. “The implementation of Navis N4Saas is a significant advancement for the Container Terminal of Port of Durres and one that we firmly believe will lead to improved efficiency across our operations, a more seamless exchange of information with key stakeholders and a broadened portfolio of services that we can offer our customers”, said Aklet Malo, Chief Financial Officer of Durrës Port Authority (Autoriteti Portual Durrës). Durres Container Terminal is a concessionary company which has operated the container terminal in the port of Durres since February 2013. It has an annual terminal capacity of 180,000 TEU. In August 2021, Mariner Adriatic has won the tender for the management and operation of Durrës Container Terminal. Mariner is a specialist investor, developer and operator of seaport container terminals. Copyright (C) PortSEurope. All Rights Reserved. 2022.