Tirana, 22 July 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Edison Kurani
The Albanian government has sent to parliament through a fast tracked procedure, a bill which offers a foreign company a concessionary agreement for a maritime and land area (photo) near Kavaja for the construction of a giant port.
“Star Bridge Port Developments Limited” says that it will realize an investment of five billion USD, which aims at building within 5 to 10 years the most important port in the Balkans.
The port of Karpen in Kavaja, aims at replacing that of Rotterdam, by encouraging businesses to bypass the Dutch port, saving one week worth of travel time and other costs.
The government’s decision soon turned into a bill and in record time, it went to Parliament for voting.
In the early hours of Friday (22.07), this concessionary agreement was voted by MPs immediately after unanimously voting the reform in the judicial system.
This concessionary agreement foresees the construction of a deep port and of an economic zone right next to it. This investment will occupy an area of 1700 hectares. Experts say that the Karpen area in Kavaja is the most suitable location in the Mediterranean. This is a strategic position that can be linked with Rotterdam and the Suez Canal. The project includes the construction of the port, accompanied by a free trade zone and a gasification terminal of liquid natural gas (LNG) and of a plant for the production of power.
“Star Bridge Port Developments Limited” has been registered in England and Wales and it is made of companies dealing in the construction of ports, such as AECOM, FTA, Ramboll, RTV, Architects, Summa.
This company has not been registered as an Albanian subject, as at this stage, it is not a legal obligation. The company is expected to be registered after the signature of the contract.
The government defends the concession
Minister of Transport, Edmond Haxhinasto has defended this concession.
He says that they expect a part of the goods that come from the east not to go to the port of Rotterdam, but pass in this port. This saves 7 days and reduces energy to transport goods for another 5 thousand km.
No other port in the Mediterranean Sea is able to receive last generation post-Panamax ships, which are cargo ships that are used today by the modern industry of maritime transport. Several ports receive these ships by using buoys away from the dock, but this causes logistical and operational problems, which further cause inefficiencies during the loading and unloading.
The minister says that “this is a project which brings development in the area, meaning that it is not a mere port”.
Haxhinasto also talks about the impact on the economy: “The construction of such zone including the port, opens 70 thousand new jobs. This will have a great impact on employment during the construction phase too, where around 7 thousand people will be employed”.
The opposition has its doubts
The company that has submitted its request to the Albanian government has been established in England and Wales, but the value of its capital is only 100 pounds.
This has also been a concern for the opposition MPs in the Parliamentary Committee for Production Activity. MPs have expressed their concern in relation to the fact that the applying company is unknown and has a minimum capital. “The company has a capital of 100 pounds”, said the democrat MP, Helidon Bushati.
Minister of Economy, Milva Ekonomi says that “Starbridge Poor Development LTD” is a company that mixes several investors. Meanwhile, the real investors are companies such as “William Blair” or “Icon Capital”. One of the companies which is part of the group is “AECON”, responsible for the construction of large structures such as the new port of London, “London Gateway”, the new port of Qatar and so on.
The majority gave the green light for the negotiation of the contract, while the opposition abstained with the argument that this concession agreement is not transparent.
If the negotiations on the contract are finalized within 45 days, the construction of the port will start in ten months. /balkaneu.com/