The Ambassador of Germany to Lebanon, H.E. Mr. Andreas Kindl, The Governor of Beirut, H.E. Mr. Marwan Abboud, the President of the Lebanese German Business Council (LGBC), Mr. Elias Assouad and a delegation of HPC Hamburg Port Consulting and Colliers International presented the “Project for a European revival of the Beirut Port and of the surrounding area” at Beit Beirut - Sodeco, Beirut. We publish here excerpts from the joint press statement on the occasion of the press conference on 9 April 2021 to present the project to the public:
This project aims to rebuild the port of Beirut following the blast of August 4, 2020 and to transform it into a state-of-the-art, safe and smart port optimized in terms of productivity, quality and surface, leaving space for the development of a sustainable and community-based urban project, all of which will abide by EU standards, and which will be accessible to everyone.
The introduction was made by Beirut Governor Mr. Marwan Abboud, who started with a warm welcome of the German delegation and then stated, “The port of Beirut was never just a station to transport goods. It’s always been the heart of the city, a landmark in the exchange between civilizations and different cultures, and the export point for all the distinguished Lebanese products. The Beirut Port is the main sea port in Lebanon and formerly was one of the most important hubs for international trade and was always listed between the 10 most important ports of the Mediterranean Sea. The port has an area of 1.2 million sqm, and is linked to 56 direct shipping lines from East Asia to Europe. It receives 6 million tons worth of cargo on a yearly basis and roughly 3000 vessels, which constitute 70% of goods imported to Lebanon. The name of the port of Beirut was mentioned for the first occasion in 15 century B.C., during the times of the pharaohs and subsequently grew to become a leading player with a considerable economic impact throughout the times of the romans, to be later on destroyed in the year 551 by a devastating earthquake. However, this did not bend the determination and resilience of the Lebanese people; and we are confident that the Beirut blast of August 4 will not break the determination and the will of the Lebanese people.”
The President of the Lebanese German Business Council (LGBC), Mr. Elias Assouad, started his speech with a brief on Lebanon’s history with the Phoenicians who built the port of Beirut around 2000 BC, and exported their know-how to all cities of the Mediterranean Sea. “Our conception of the Beirut Port reconstruction project is one where HOPE is the driver, to reconnect with the economic and cultural role that Lebanon and its port have played for the region for centuries”, he said - adding, “Today, our priorities are threefold: 1) Rejuvenate the container terminals, optimizing the handling processes using technology-based automation to maximize safety, work cycle and tremendously improve the maintenance services, hence resulting in exponential efficiency, doubling or tripling its performance. 2) Redesign the conventional maritime trade into an ultra-modern port where automation can substantially increase safety and decrease the costs of handling, accelerate administrative procedures and drive efficient loading and unloading of goods to minimize docking to less than 48 hours. This will include providing small businesses in the region with means to export their products via Beirut Port serving a 2-way trade for Lebanon and the region. 3) Capitalize on freed spaces (today used for warehousing) and areas unfit for cargo use, to expand the port activities, introducing a touristic section of the port and opening access for locals and visitors, remodeling for example green spaces and museums that would tell the story of Phoenician trade all through to current times”. He then stated that “Rebuilding the Beirut Port goes beyond the act of constructing buildings, cranes, terminals, docks, etc. it is rewiring a major artery to the region’s beating heart, not only reopening maritime trading routes, but also reviving and strengthening in-land routes from Lebanon to surrounding countries notably Syria, Jordan and Iraq. Rebuilding the Port, also means, making it (and Beirut) more beautiful with its revised urban planning, more accessible to its own people, more welcoming to its tourists, more sustainable for decades to come, and most certainly, more supportive of Lebanon’s growth and stability”.
Following Mr. Assouad’s speech, the German delegation presented the project of “Le Quartier et Port de St. Michel”. This project is planned to be built in parts of the harbor that are not suitable to be operated as a port and which were previously used as warehouses.
Mr. Suheil Mahayni, Managing Director at HPC Hamburg Port Consulting said: “We have been deeply shocked by the terrible impact the explosion had on the lives of the Lebanese people. Coming from a port city ourselves and having worked in Beirut port for many years we feel deeply connected to Lebanon. The whole team of Hamburg Port Consulting felt a deep obligation and desire to find a concept which rebuilds not only the port in a highly efficient manner, but also prepares it for the future. We have strived for a concept that will create employment for tens of thousands of people, the reconstruction of hundreds of thousands of damaged homes and the opening up of Beirut to the sea, providing livable and socially oriented new homes in parts of the harbor not suitable to be operated as a port. Therefore, we have teamed up with Colliers International, a global real estate expert, which allows us to jointly offer a unique concept fulfilling these goals, supported by the German government.”
Archeologist and cultural heritage expert, Mrs. Alia Fares, tackled the subject of the Beirut Port Cultural Heritage. Mrs. Fares is coordinating between the German team and the local heritage stakeholders, both national as well as the non-governmental in Beirut, in order to secure an adequate integration of cultural heritage into the proposed reconstruction masterplans. She said: “The architectural legacy of Beirut’s built heritage is an integral element of its urban identity and must be unconditionally positioned at the core of any future concepts. The project has shown to build inclusive strategies in its urban development scheme at the Beirut harbor, as well as its surrounding quarters, setting human values with cultural and heritage-oriented outlines at the center of its proposal, promising to integrate the needs of resident inhabitants and protecting their distinct social fabric”. She then added, “The architectural legacy of Beirut’s built heritage is an integral element of its urban identity and must be unconditionally positioned at the core of any future concepts”.
Mr. Lars Greiner, Associate Partner for Middle East and Africa at HPC Hamburg Port Consulting then took the floor and stated: “We are honored and proud to be heard in the redevelopment of the Port of Beirut. We have strived to develop a concept which will not only develop the port precinct of Beirut into a world class, state-of-the-art port, but prepare it for growth and continuing development in the fast-changing digitalization and automation of international trading and logistics. The new port is focused on optimizing cargo movements and cargo mixes that best support greater safety, cost efficient and speedy imports and exports, allowing for development of the terminals that are modern, safe, efficient, but can also be expanded as trade develops and grows.”
Prof. Hermann Schnell, Managing Director at Colliers Germany and Head of Architecture and Workplace Consulting, said that “Modern Port Concepts, like those of Cape Town or Barcelona can offer precious space for community-based urban development and great access to the sea. We propose the construction of a new Quartier St. Michel for a diverse and lively Beirut with a mix of different residential buildings including affordable housing for families, green space and good infrastructure with schools, medical and sports facilities and a multi- purpose culture center being proposed. This neighborhood will be built in parts of the harbor not suitable to be operated as a port and previously used as warehouses”. He then added, “We are convinced that with the right support from decision makers, this project will attract international private capital. The profit from this development project could pay for the reconstruction of the port, the old city restoration and for social housing. It is vital that the Quartier St. Michel is developed and achieved in a fully transparent and compliant structure as to really serve the people of Beirut”.
According to Fraunhofer Center for International Management and Knowledge Economy IMW, “the Quartier St Michel project can generate up to USD 30 billion for the Lebanese economy through added value, taxes and social security contributions over a period of 25 years. It also has the potential to provide significant further socio-economic, ecological and image benefits for the civil society of Beirut and the neighboring region.” Fraunhofer IMW is one of 75 institutes that comprise the world's leading applied research organization, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, and assessed the indirect profitability of the project.
German ambassador to Lebanon, H.E. Mr. Andreas Kindl, closed the panel, stating: “After the explosion, the German Government has acted quickly and delivered immediate humanitarian support to the Lebanese people. Germany was the first to financially support the UNESCO Fund for heritage in Beirut. Many German citizens and private companies have sent donations. The German company, Combi Lift, has been crucial in preventing further harm to the inhabitants of Beirut by cleaning hazardous material in the port. Germany has worked with other donors on the set-up of the Recovery, Reconstruction, and Reform Framework (3RF) and is one of the main contributors to the Lebanon Funding Facility. The Port of Beirut is at the core of Lebanon’s economic activities. It needs to be in the focus of redeveloping Beirut. Germany calls most urgently on all Lebanese stakeholders and political actors to fulfill the expectations of the Lebanese people by contributing to the formation of a mission-driven, credible and accountable government, able to implement the necessary reforms. It is only by implementing meaningful and profound economic and governance reforms that Lebanese can rebuild the confidence of the international community and create the conditions that will attract support from investors.”