Algeria’s Ministry of Transport has signed a seven-year agreement with three firms for the construction of a $3.5-billion deep-sea port in Algeria. Signed on Jan. 17, the deal, which includes China State Construction Engineering Corp. (CSCEC), China Harbour Engineering Co. (CHEC) and Algeria Harbour Group, is for the development of Algeria’s Central New Port. Set to be operational within another four years, the facility will be Algeria’s biggest port and main gateway along the coast of the Mediterranean.

The port will have 23 quay berths, with an overall 6,320-meter length for each quay, according to CSCEC. The port will be built over 1,032 hectares, with an additional 2,000 hectares of floor space for logistics. The Chinese firm said the port will have an annual throughput of 6.3-million 20-ft-equivalent units and 25.7 million tons of bulk cargo. Both the Algerian government and the three companies will establish a joint-venture company to carry out port design, procure port construction equipment and materials, and execute construction. 

CSCEC in a Jan. 21 statement noted that the JV also will incorporate Algeria’s state-owned enterprises, private businesses and operators but did not give details regarding the partners. The Chinese affiliate companies will own a 49% stake in the JV under Algerian law, which requires the government or its entities to hold a 51% stake in any public-private partnership.

The new port will be managed by Shanghai International Ports Group, China’s largest joint-stock port operator, according to Algeria state media. The company is majority-owned by the Shanghai SASAC, with China Merchants Group as its second-largest shareholder. “Shanghai [International] Ports Group would help in driving international shipment traffic coming from Southeast Asia and other continents to pass from this center port,” Algerian Transport Minister Boudjemaa Talai was quoted as saying.

The port will be constructed at El Hamdania, near the town of Cherchell, 60 kilometers from the capital, Algiers; it is located on a sheltered natural bay with up to 20 m of draft, enabling big ships to dock. Algeria has 11 commercial ports, two oil ports and 41 fishing ports. The commercial ports are congested and in need of expansion and modernization. The government has allocated some $185 million toward modernizing and upgrading the ports and has licensed private companies as investors. International container terminal operator DP World, in partnership with Algeria’s port authority EPAL, is operating in the port of Algiers under a 30-year concession. Algeria relies on its ports for up to 90% of its trade and provides a gateway for imports and exports for neighboring Mali.