The logistics sector in Lebanon is expected to play a bigger role in the future economic growth of the country as Lebanon has the right ingredients for the development of a world-class logistics infrastructure that could serve the eastern Mediterranean region. According to the Agility emerging markets logistics index. The country has a score of 4.02 over 7 for market compatibility which measures the level of likely demand for logistics services and has a score of 4.11 for market connectedness.
In particular, Tripoli and its surrounding hosts' massive economic facilities that can be revitalized to further boost the economy of the city and its vicinity.
The Port of Tripoli is one of these facilities that hold a promising future for Tripoli and North Lebanon. The port is second in size in Lebanon following the port of Beirut with total water and land surface of 3,000,000 m2. Because of the unique geographic location, the port is positioned to act as a gateway into northern Lebanon, with transit access to Syria – by sea or border, transit access to Syria and Iraq and transshipment and shipping access to the East Mediterranean. It could also serve as a potential transshipment hub to serve Cyprus, East Turkey, and China.
Starting 2010, a port master plan has been elaborated and approved by the Government with a vision to develop and expand the port to enable it to accommodate larger numbers of ships and containers. The master plan is foreseeing the extension of the length of the quay to 1200m and to deepen the basin to 18m draught, in addition to backfilling a rear zone of 160,000m2. By executing these plans of expansion and development, Tripoli port would be capable of hosting container ships with lengths ranging between 250-400m.
Since 2012, a new 600-meter quay has been built and the basin has been deepened to 15 meters, to enable the port to receive larger vessels. In the same year, the UAE-based Gulftainer was awarded 25-years concession to develop and operate a new container terminal at the Port of Tripoli. In the first phase, the terminal will be able to handle 400,000 containers a year. In the second phase, it will be equipped to process 800,000 containers per year. Once completed, the new Gulftainer Terminal will be able to accommodate some of the largest container vessels operating in the eastern Mediterranean,
In 2016, the transshipment operator CMA CGM opened offices at the Port of Tripoli. Other companies such as the Danish firm Maersk, UAE-based United Arab Shipping Company (UASC), Italian Tarros, and Turkish Arkas also joined the Port of Tripoli in the same year highlighting the growth of activity in the port. CMA CGM and the Chinese shipping company Cosco have recently started to use the port as a transshipment hub for vessels from China.
The Port of Tripoli gained further attention from the Government lately, given the current and potential economic role that the port can play at the city level, the country as well as regional levels, and given the prospects regarding the growth in the port traffic on the shorter run. Indeed, the Port of Tripoli will be filling a national and regional gap, as the Syrian ports, mainly Tartous and Latakia are unlikely to handle future demand in the short to medium term and as the port of Beirut is reaching its maximum capacity in handling maritime traffic.
The Rachid Karami International Fairground (RKIF) is situated in the southern quadrant of the City of Tripoli, 2 km from the Port of Tripoli, 23 km from Rene Moawad Airport and 30 km from the Syrian border. The site is situated within the urban area of Tripoli, across from a high-density residential community to the north and northeast and a lower density, mixed-use neighborhood to the south and west.
The RKIF, was designed by the world-renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer, and built at the end of the 1960s over a 1 million m2 prime-location land to host international fairs and exhibitions. The total built exhibition area is 40,000 m2 (18,000 m2 closed space and 22,000 m2 open space but roofed) but with potential for expansion. It also includes a 3-star hotel the concession of which is about to be terminated.
The RKIF Fair is another economic facility that could place Tripoli on the regional and international business map, due to its huge potentials to host regional and international exhibitions.
Rene Mouawad airport is located in Akkar, in the north of Lebanon at a distance of 105 km from Beirut, 25 km from Tripoli and 7km from the border with Syria, and has easy accessibility to the international coastal highway.
The Renee Mouawad airport was established in the early 1960s. Initially, the airport served as a private airport for an oil company that used small IPC planes to transfer its employees between Lebanon and the Arab Countries. In 1966, it was taken over by the Lebanese Military which transformed it into one of the most modernized military bases in the region at the time. In addition to this military activity, the airport was used for internal passenger flights in the late ’80s and early ’90s but has ever since been out of operation with the exception of light military activity.
The airport currently benefits from an area of 6 million m2, out of which 2.75 million m2 is the investment area. It currently comprises a 3000 m taxiway (expandable by 250m) and 45m width, a 100‐car parking lot, and a control tower.
Plans have been put in place for the airport’s expansion and rehabilitation into a modern hub for charter, cargo, and internal flights through a proposal for a feasibility study submitted to the Lebanese Parliament. Other potential activities include a maintenance hub to local, regional and international airlines, and an aviation training center.
A private sector investment is being sought through a PPP contract to rehabilitate the existing airport for a total estimated cost of $100 million and to operate and maintain the airport for the total contract period.
The railway project connecting Tripoli with the Syrian railway network is another vital project of ultimate importance on the Government’s planning agenda for the city. The project was initiated in 2002; however, the execution was postponed. Work is expected to be resumed on rehabilitating the station, concluding the expropriations, and launching the installment of the rail tracks.
A rail connection offers a large cost and capacity advantages. All large Syrian cities (Damascus, Homs, and Aleppo) are serviced by a standard gauge railway, which is also linked to the ports of Latakia and Tartus and to the Turkish rail network. The planned new railway connection between Tripoli and Al Akkari on the Syrian border would link the Port of Tripoli to the standard gauge rail network of Syria, making the port a very good location for import of bulk goods and containers for reconstruction needs.
A private sector investment is being sought through a PPP contract to construct the railway for a total estimated cost of $90 million and to operate and maintain the railway.
In addition to the aforementioned strategic investments, several vital projects are currently under implementation in the city of Tripoli to improve the infrastructure and basic services, the most prominent of which:
All these infrastructure and economic projects and investments will contribute to stimulating the economic activities in Tripoli and North Lebanon, and consequently to creating thousands of job opportunities at the local and national levels. They will also be an essential factor in making full use of the area’s economic, social and cultural potentials which have been underused for decades.