The Port of Beirut is located centrally between three continents (Asia, Africa, and Europe), making it an important trading center for many ages. Since the 15th Century BC, the Port of Beirut has been an important commercial and economic center for the Arab world.
The Port of Beirut is Lebanon's main seaport, and it is one of the busiest ports in the eastern Mediterranean region. The Port of Beirut and the Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport are Lebanon's main points of entry. The Port of Beirut is important for transporting goods to Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and the Persian Gulf States.
In 1960, the Lebanese company, "Compagnie de Gestion et d'Exploitation du Port de Beyrouth (Port Authority of Beirut)," was granted a 30-year concession to run the Port of Beirut. Since the 1990 Civil War, the Port of Beirut has been updated and expanded. Existing port facilities have been renovated, and new facilities for port administration and handling containerized cargo have been built.
Two of the world's largest container shipping companies (Switzerland's Mediterranean Shipping Company, or MSC, and France's Compagnie Maritime d'Affretement - Compagnie Generale Maritime or CMA-CGM) have selected the Port of Beirut as their transshipment hub. CMA-CGM is constructing a regional headquarters building near the Port of Beirut.
In 2012, a total of 2,125 vessels called at the Port of Beirut carrying 7.2 million tons of imported and exported goods, 406.8 thousand tons of transshipments, 86 thousand cars, almost 635 thousand TEUs of containerized cargo, and 5762 passengers.
The Port of Beirut covers an area of 120 hectares, and its four water basin cover one hundred hectares of water surface. The Port of Beirut contains over 5.1 kilometers (3.2 miles) of quays, including 1.6 kilometers (one mile) of general cargo quays with depths from 8 to 10.5 meters (26.2 to 34.4 feet) and 1.3 kilometers (0.8 miles) of container quays with depths from 10.5 to 13 meters (34.4 to 42.7 feet). The new container quay, No. 16, is 600 meters (1968 feet) long with alongside depth of 15.5 meters (50.9 feet), and the bulk quay is 220 meters (721.8 feet) long with alongside depth of 13 meters (42.7 feet). The basin for Quay 16 covers 20 hectares with a 550-meter (1804-foot) breakwater.
The general cargo area in the Port of Beirut contains 12 warehouses and a grain silo. This includes four warehouses for general cargo that cover 2.6 hectares. The Port of Beirut has three warehouses for cargo consolidation that cover an area of two hectares. There are three warehouses for automobiles in the Port of Beirut that cover a total area of 1.8 hectares. The Port of Beirut also contains a two-acre open warehouse for cars and heavy-load engines and a 1.3-acre warehouse for hazardous goods. The Port of Beirut's silo has capacity for 120 thousand tons. It includes 48 big cells, each with capacity for 2500 tons, and 50 small cells with 500-ton capacity. The silo suction speed is 600 tons per hour. In late 2011, the Port of Beirut announced the launch of a new CAMA-IBS billing system, a web-based application for port customers.
The Port of Beirut's Duty Free Market covers 1.1 hectares of modular shops and contains three industrial buildings totaling 3.2 hectares. The Port of Beirut's Free Zone has parking capacity for 475 cars. The gate at the administrative buildings has capacity for 160 trucks. The Port of Beirut's Gate No. 9 also has capacity for 140 trucks.
The Port of Beirut has ample equipment to handle large volumes and a wide variety of cargoes. Equipment for handling containers in the Port of Beirut includes six 255- to 300-ton capacity mobile cranes, 13 125- to 165-ton capacity mobile cranes, 33 top loaders for full containers, and 16 forklifts for empty containers. The Port of Beirut also has 35 mobile cranes of 50- to 90-ton capacity for steel and 12 25-ton mobile cranes for general cargo. The Port of Beirut equipment fleet also includes 78 trailers, 30 trucks, and seven tractors.
The Port of Beirut's Free Zone contains three industrial buildings. Each of industrial buildings 5 and 6 cover a one-acre area and contain 52 warehouses. Each warehouse covers about 200 square meters (2153 square feet), and 16 of the warehouses are located on the ground floor. Industrial building 2 covers one acre and contains 38 warehouses, each about 200 square meters. Each of the industrial buildings contains two elevators with capacity for three tons and is equipped with wide internal aisles to accommodate the free movement of forklifts.
The Logistic Free Zone (LFZ) in the Port of Beirut was inaugurated in 2007. The logistics warehouse receives foreign cargoes and offers a variety of services to prepare cargo for export or distribution within Lebanon. Several large companies have leased space and built modern warehouses within the LFZ. The LFZ is open to companies in the transport, export, transit, and international trade sectors.
The Port of Beirut's Duty Free Market is located in Building 3 which contains the well-known 2800-square-meter (30.1-thousand-square-foot) Carpet Bazaar. The four-story building was designed to allow natural sunlight, and the warehouses and shops housed in the building overlook a luxurious interior with pools, waterfalls, and decorative stairways. Two panoramic elevators offer visitors wonderful views of the Bazaar. The Duty Free Market in the Port of Beirut contains 46 shops ranging from 75 to 300 square meters (807 to 3229 square feet). Each shop has appropriate lighting, air conditioning, modern fire detectors and sprinklers, and two elevators with capacity for 1.5 tons each.
Today, the Port of Beirut's first and most historic basin is being redeveloped by Solidere, a Lebanese real estate company. Currently the home of the Beirut Naval Base, Solidere will convert Quays 1 and 2 into a promenade and leisure commercial properties.
Container terminal operations in the Port of Beirut are subcontracted to the Beirut Container Terminal Consortium (BCTC) which seeks to provide an efficient, cost-effective multi-modal container facility serving the Eastern Mediterranean region. BCTC is a joint venture between Lebanon's International Port Management Beirut SAL, the United Kingdom's Portia Peel Ports Limited, and the United States' Logistics and Port Management Americas LLC.
The BCTC supports local economic growth and acts as a base for cargo distributions into the central Arab Peninsula. The Port of Beirut has partnership contracts for the transshipment of containers with both MSC and CMA-CGM. In 2012, the Port of Beirut's container terminal handled over a million TEUs.
Most of the container traffic is handled at Quay 16, the deepest and longest quay in the Port of Beirut. Quay 16 can accommodate the world's biggest container vessels. The container terminal in the Port of Beirut has a 36.5 hectare stacking area with 440 reefer points and total capacity for 745 thousand TEUs per year.
The Port of Beirut's container terminal at Quay 16 is equipped with six ship-to-shore gantry cranes with outreach of 60 meters (196.8 feet). The Quay 16 container terminal also has two mobile harbor cranes, 18 40-ton capacity rubber-tyred-gantry cranes, 14 41-ton reach stackers, four top loaders, and six 12.5-ton empty container handlers. The terminal fleet includes 44 trucks, 30 chassis, four roll-on/roll-off tractors, four roll-on/roll-off trailers, five six-wheel trucks, four goose neck trailers, and 61 trailers. The Port of Beirut's container terminal has in-house systems and software that supports the full range of operations.
BCTC funds a Transportation Research Unit at the American University of Beirut that focuses on improving the cost effectiveness and efficiency at the Port of Beirut's container terminal. The Unit's outputs include software that predicts next-day gate deliveries and allows planners to forecast yard congestion and better allocate discharge locations, labor, and equipment.
Having very high traffic at the Quay 16 terminal, BCTC arranged with the Port of Beirut to use the older Quays 12, 13, and 14 to handle smaller container ships when Quay 16 is full. These additional quays allow the BCTC to handle up to 1.2 million TEUs per year, and they reduce waiting times for cargo vessels entering the port. The older quays have two mobile harbor cranes for loading and unloading containers.
The Port of Beirut's container terminal is undergoing expansion efforts. The Phase I Expansion involves extending Quay 16 by 500 meters (1640 feet) to the mouth of the Beirut River and by reclaiming 14 hectares of land and creating a new 18-hectare stacking area for containers. The Phase I Expansion will bring Quay 16 to a total length of 1100 meters (3609 feet), and the depth will also be extended to 17.5 meters (57.4 feet). The Phase I Expansion will add capacity for 450 thousand TEUs, bringing the terminal's annual container-handling capacity to 1.5 million TEUs.
The Phase II Expansion will involve filling in the fourth Port of Beirut basin and bridging Quays 12 and 16. This will create a continuous 2300-meter (7646-foot) long quay and further increase container-handling capacity by 600 thousand TEUs per year. Once Phase II is completed, the Port of Beirut's container terminal will have capacity to handle 2.1 million TEUs per year.
The passenger terminal in the Port of Beirut is located at Quay 5 in the port's second basin. Found to be outdated and inadequate, the facility has been rebuilt to cover 600 square meters (6458 square feet). The new modern facility has a decorative sail structure.
During the 15-year Civil War in Lebanon, rail service was brought to a halt. Most of the train stations were converted to bus stops, and the railway system fell into disrepair. Lebanon's Office des Chemins de Fer et des Transports en Commun (Railway and Public Transportation Authority) operates public transportation, operating 12 bus lines near the Port of Beirut. Currently, the France's railway system, SNCF, has been employed to analyze Lebanon's railway structure and make recommendations for reviving the old system. When the system is running again, there will be a rail link to the Port of Beirut.