Kuwait, officially named the ‘State of Kuwait’, is a country in Western Asia. It shares its borders with Iraq to the north and Saudi Arabia to the South. Kuwait has a long coastal line of approximately 499 km long. Because of such a long coastal line, Kuwait has become a significant port country.
The ports of Kuwait play a vital role in the export and import trade in the world. They connect to all the other major ports of the world through crucial shipping lines.
The strategic location of Kuwait enabled it to rely on its maritime trade to boost its economy. Kuwait’s ports were considered the highest contributor to their economy until oil wells were discovered and stood first as an economic developer.
Kuwait has a strategic location that enables the country to depend on maritime trade for the economy. Therefore, exports and imports play a significant role in the economic and constructional development of Kuwait.
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Port Authority of Kuwait
The Ports Authority of Kuwait handles the ports in Kuwait under the supervision of Kuwait Government. The authority also plays an active role in the country’s development by ensuring safe trading across the ports. In addition, the Port Authority is responsible for maintaining, exploiting, and managing the country’s waterways and ports. Three important ports in Kuwait deal with the export and import of Kuwait.
Let us have a look at the ports of Kuwait.
The Shuwaikh Port is the primary commercial port of Kuwait, with a total of 21 berths. Of them, around 14 berths stand at a depth of 10 meters, four berths at 8.5 meters depth, and three berths are 6.7 meters depth.
The vessels that travel to and from Shuwaikh port pass through a navigation channel in Kuwait Bay. This navigation channel is 8 km long and has a depth of 8.5 meters. The port also can receive ships with 7.5 meters draft at low tides and vessels of 9.6 meters at high tide.
The Shuwaikh Port is managed and operated by the Port Authority of Kuwait and has all the modern facilities to cater to every need. The Shuwaikh Port is located in the heart of Kuwait city and spreads across 4.4 million square meters, and the basin is measured at around 1.2 million square meters.
The Shuwaikh Port has around 21 walls that differ in size and depth to accommodate all kinds of vessels. The nautical mile used by the ships to enter the port is a channel of about 87 km, and the lowest estimation of depth during low tides would be around 8.5m. There is an open storage facility in the port that stretches around 450,000 square meters and a warehouse storage facility of 170,000 square meters. However, despite being equipped with all the major facilities, there are four major problems in the Shuwaikh Port:
- return of empty containers,
- storage area, and
- the number of vessels.
Congested traffic on the roads surrounding the port is a significant problem as it delays the return of empty vessels to the port, reducing their efficiency. There is also a shortage of container storage in the Shuwaikh Port, reducing ship traffic in the last few years. The number of vessels that arrive in port Shuwaikh have also decreased in recent years, leading to a decrease in their profits.
The Shuwaikh Port started its operations in 1960, but there isn’t any systematic maintenance regime to keep the port in functional condition. There has been no significant work in repairing the port since 1960. An inspection of the Shuwaikh port showed widespread cracking, spilling, and corrosion of reinforced concrete elements. The port can be called to be a deteriorating mess.
It is the second vital part of Kuwait, with high platforms that handle commercial traffic, container vessels and an oil products platform. The Kuwait National Petroleum Company handles the oil platform. The Shuaiba Port also has 20 berths that vary in depths of 10- 14 meters. Four of them handle container vessels.
The oil pier of Shuwaikh port stands at a water depth of 16 meters. In addition to the above, the port houses two mini sea craft and barge basins. The Shuaiba Port is located 45 km south of Kuwait City and is the second-largest port in the country, which handles commercial traffic. This port handles general cargo, containers, tankers and barges. The Shuaiba Port is surrounded by an industrial estate that includes a petroleum refinery, a complex of petrochemical plants, a cement plant, a chlorine and soda factory, a desalination plant and a power station.
The Shuaiba Port was built almost 30 years back. As such, the majority of the services offer no longer meet the current standards and requirements. However, SMEC is working on a project to design and supervise the construction works required to rehabilitate, upgrade, and expand the existing services and infrastructure. The project also includes facilities to identify operational problems, evaluating road pavements and drainage systems, salt and fresh water networks, and the sewerage system. In addition, new substations will also emerge, and there will be an up-gradation of old ones to comply with the latest industry standards.
Listing third in the port list is the Doha Port of Kuwait. Doha Port is a mini coastal port that stands at a depth of 4.3 meters. The Doha port primarily `handles crafts, barges and small ships that travel through Gulf countries. However, it also includes vessels that conduct coastal services. The Doha Port is a half-closed basin that extends by wave partitions.
The Doha Port is located in Doha and is close to some of the most popular tourist destinations of the country, like Doha Corniche and Souq Waqif. The Milaha Port Services control this port. There is also a cruise terminal to accommodate luxury yachts and big cruise liners. Additionally, the port also offers several convenient facilities for passengers like easy immigration, effortless customs, cashless foreign exchange, taxi and bus stands, Kuwait bus tours, Qatar Duty-Free, a lounge cafe, and waiting restrooms for cruise passengers and staff. The Doha port stood as the sole commercial port of Kuwait that could handle almost every type of cargo until the Hamad Port came into being in 2016.
Mubarak Al Kabeer Port
The main focus of the New Kuwait 2035 vision is maritime trade, in which the ports of Kuwait will have a significant role. There is a new port under construction on Boubiyan Island. This new port will be known as Mubarak Al Kabeer Port and is a part of China’s Belt and Road initiative in Kuwait. The Mubarak Al Kabeer Port will house total of 24 berths with a capacity of 8.1 m TEUs. This Port is an essential part of New Kuwait Vision 2035 as it would create plenty of employment opportunities. In addition, it is expected that the new port in Kuwait will benefit the country and serve the interests of other countries like China, Iraq, and Iran.
Upon construction, the Mubarak Al Kabeer Port will be the closest seaport to Central Asia. Unlike other ports in Kuwait, this port will be environmentally sustainable. Around 53% of the port construction is complete, and the first phase includes four berths also completed in April 2021. The Bubiyan Island will act as the home to all the power plants and substations as a part of Mubarak Al Kabeer Port’s development. The first phase of Mubarak Al Kabeer Port connects it to the existing road network in Bubiyan Island through a road project. This project is helmed as Kuwait’s largest infrastructure project of 2021.
Kuwait is pouring billions of dollars to build new ports, roads, and airports to increase connectivity. The country’s main objective is to make the most of its strategic location so that it can become the northern nexus of the Gulf. It will subsequently help them facilitate and profit from the flow of international trade in the coming years.
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Ajay Menon is a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, with an integrated major in Ocean Engineering and Naval Architecture. Besides writing, he balances chess and works out tunes on his keyboard during his free time.