Cablegate: Dart: Update of Work at the Port of Umm Qasr

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. The Iraqi Director of Ports is very concerned about
security in the port and is frustrated by his lack of
knowledge about what is occurring at the port. Bechtel's
large dredger, the Carolina, is to finish dredging berth 10
(bulk grain facility) on 18 June. It will then turn its
dredging efforts to the new port. U. N. Development
Programs (UNDP) began dredging operations at the old port on
11 June. Daily maintenance dredging will be required once
the initial dredging operations are completed. Bechtel has
begun cleaning the grain silos and is doing repairs.
However, due to continual setbacks, Bechtel is leery of
giving a start date for the use of the grain facility, but
hopes for end of July. Twelve major wrecks have been
identified under the Umm Qasr waterways. Ten need to be
removed, but additional wreckage is continually being
identified. Port workers have received April salary
payments and should soon also receive May and June payments.
Increased looting from recent ship arrivals of U.N. World
Food Program (WFP) food has occurred. There are currently
84 security guards at the port, however they are not armed
and there are no current plans to arm them. In addition, it
has been decided to train 300 Iraqi ex-navy and ex-coast
guard to provide security at the new and old ports. They
will be uniformed and armed, and their start date is hoped
to be 20 June, which coincides with the arrival date of
several WFP-contracted vessels to the old port. 16 June
marked the opening of the port to commercial traffic. End


2. The weekly port meetings of 5 and 12 June in Umm Qasr
were co-chaired by Stevedoring Services of America (SSA) and
the Iraqi Director of Ports, who was elected by the port
workers in mid-April. Also in attendance were British
military officials, Bechtel, Office of the Coalition
Provisional Authority (OCPA)/Lower South, Naval officers
from the Bahrain Naval Station, WFP, the Chairman of the Umm
Qasr Local Council, USAID, and USAID/DART Chief Food

3. On 5 June, The Director of Ports opened the meeting,
expressing two priority concerns. The first was security at
the port. He said that Bechtel has had things stolen and
that the Iraqi police have lost confidence, as they have no
way to control the looters and have no means of
communication. His second concern was repairing the marine
vessels at the port, such as the tugboats and channel

4. On 12 June, the Iraqi Director of Ports said that the
port used to function well and the various workers knew
their jobs. Now he is frustrated, as he said he does not
know what is going on at the port. There is no revenue
coming in for him to pay salaries or make upgrades. (Note:
The lack of resolution over the port fees charged by SSA
affects the lack of revenue coming to the port. End


5. Bechtel reported that the "Carolina," which is the very
large dredger, continues its work at the bulk grain
facility, berth 10. When finished, it will have dredged a
channel 300 meters long, 50 meters wide and 12.5 meters
deep. At the berth itself, the depth will be dredged to
13.5 meters. Bechtel anticipates completing the job on 18
June. At berth 10, Bechtel has found large objects under
the water, but they are deeper than 13.5 meters so will not
affect ships coming into port. Bechtel is using the one
Iraqi dredger out of five that is working, the Ramalah, as a
"washing" tool to clear away other debris at berth 10.

6. On 19 June, Bechtel plans to begin dredging the new
port. It will begin with berths 20 and 21 and dredge to a
depth of 12.5 meters. When finished dredging the berths,
Bechtel has recommended to USAID/Asia Near East Bureau (ANE)
that it continue to dredge the full length of the new port,
a swath 200 meters long and 12.5 meters deep, which would
take five to six months to complete. There is one wreck
under this channel that is one of the wrecks to be removed
by UNDP's contract with the Turkish company, but Bechtel
said that it could dredge around the wreck if UNDP has not
removed it in time. Bechtel is awaiting approval from
USAID/ANE for this last piece.

7. Bechtel was originally contracted to also dredge the
berths at the old port but reported that USAID removed the
old port from its scope of work (SOW). Bechtel has been
told that U.N. Development Program (UNDP) received funding
from the Japanese to dredge the areas at the old port,
however it is Bechtel's understanding that the contract is
to dredge to a depth of 9.5 meters, which already exists.
Unfortunately, no representative from UNDP was at the
meeting to clarify this point or give a start date for the
UNDP dredging. Subsequently, DART was successful in
contacting UNDP. UNDP reported to DART that it intends to
dredge all berths at the old port and work began on 11 June.

8. Before the war, the Iraqis had five dredgers at the
port. Bechtel has surveyed the functionality of the
dredgers and has determined that two should be scrapped for
parts, two need a complete overhaul, and one is in good
condition and currently working, the Ramalah.

9. After all the dredging is completed, daily maintenance
dredging will be required in the port.

10. Bechtel also has the responsibility to clean and repair
the silos that are part of the grain facility (berth 10) at
the port and reported on 5 June that work is "behind." The
silo complex is huge, with 24 silos, located in between the
new and old ports and comes under the management of the
Ministry of Trade Grain Board, rather than the Ports
Management. Bechtel reported that it has two emergency
generators at the silo. One works well and can power the
silo, but is insufficient for continual use. Generator
power at the silo is required, as Bechtel said that power
from the sub-station will take "quite awhile to repair." 26
additional generators were to arrive 13 June, and will be
used for the grain facility and to power new lights at the
old port (lights have been provided by WFP).

11. Even though cleaning of the silos had begun several
weeks ago, the original plan failed. Nevertheless, Bechtel
is again moving forward with cleaning the silos and making
repairs. Bechtel has hired an Iraqi company for the
cleaning and anticipates that it will take approximately two
weeks to complete. (Note: The cleaning of the silo is a
pre-requisite to its use. End Note.) .

12. Sabotage at the silo has been a continued problem.
About two weeks ago, circuit breakers were removed in a
strategic manner so Bechtel halted the repairs for a few
days. During a visit with USAID Administrator Natsios on 16
June, Bechtel stated that no looting had occurred in the
last week. Bechtel had hoped the grain facility would be
ready to receive grain by early July. However, with
continual setbacks Bechtel is now predicting end July, but
hesitates to give any date.


13. Bechtel reported that twelve major wrecks have been
identified under the Umm Qasr waterways. Two are at berth
10 and deep enough as not to be problematic. Bechtel has
sub-contracted Titan Maritime to remove five of the wrecks,
and UNDP has the contract for the other five. Bechtel said,
however, that if UNDP did not move swiftly enough in
removing them, that Bechtel would have its sub-contractor do
the job. Additional wrecks are continually being


14. On 4 June, provision of salary payments to the port
workers for the month of April was completed. By 15 June,
CPA/Lower South anticipates providing payments for May, and
hopes to give out June salaries by the end of the month.
These payments are in addition to the 20 USD emergency

15. Because the silo workers come under the MOT's Grain
Board, those workers have not yet been paid, as the list had
just been compiled and given to CPA/Lower South prior to the
5 June port meeting. (Note: It was said after the meeting
that the silo workers would prefer to come under the
management of the port instead of the Grain Board(GB)
because they consider the GB to be corrupt. End Note.)


16. Security remains a major problem at the port, and
during the last two days of discharging the M/V Orbit, the
looting intensified. On 10 June, WFP told the DART that
looting of broken food bags had started with the recent
discharge of WFP ship M/V Nanking (which arrived 2 June) and
continued with the M/V Orbit. It intensified however during
the night of 9 June when a truck came in and loaded up five
to eight MT of wheat flour. Subsequently, during the day on
10 June, the looting further increased when men, armed with
pistols and grenades, carried away whole bags of wheat flour
from the M/V Orbit in broad daylight. No one dared to do
anything to stop them as the stevedores were frightened.
(Note: The M/V Orbit departed on 11 June. End Note.)

17. During the 5 June meeting, the Director of the Ports
had said that security was his number one concern, which was
later echoed by the Chairman of the Local Council, saying
that it is the "key to achieving everything."

18. SSA stated that security inside the port was its
responsibility under the USAID contract and the perimeter
security came under the responsibility of the Coalition
forces, but that this would end 22 June. (Note: Even
though it was stated that the Coalition currently held the
responsibility for providing perimeter security at the port,
it was not clear that this responsibility was wholly
fulfilled. End Note.) Post 22 June, it is uncertain who
has the responsibility for perimeter security. The meeting
attendees felt that CPA and USAID needed to discuss the
matter. When DART visited the port on 12 June, no semblance
of security was witnessed at the old port, including none at
the entrance gate.

19. There are currently 84 security guards at the port,
however they are not armed and there are no current plans to
arm them. Their job is access control at the port. 60 of
the 84 were trained by the British. SSA will now assume the
duty of training the remaining 24, as well as new hires.
The plan is to increase the force to 250. The Deputy Ports
Manager said that it was not just a matter of training the
guards, but also of hiring the right men, as "some were
malicious." 50 ex-navy police have recently been
transferred to provide security at the grain facility and
CPA is trying to arm them. In addition, one gentleman at
the meeting announced that armed port police were now
providing gate security, however neither SSA, the Ports
Director, nor the British regiment knew anything about them,
which puzzled the entire group.

20. On 11 June, a meeting was held at the port, chaired by
SSA, to discuss security measures. Also in attendance were
the Iraqi port management, British military, and WFP. It
was decided to train 300 Iraqi ex-navy and ex-coast guard to
provide security at the new and old ports. They will be
uniformed and armed, and their start date is hoped to be 20
June, just in time for the arrival of six WFP-contracted
vessels over one week's time which will berth at the old


21. Bechtel plans to begin the survey of the channel very
soon and estimates that it will take 14 days to complete.
Following completion of the survey, Bechtel will tender for
required work.

22. Bechtel has completed its assessment of the primary
port building. The assessment is with USAID awaiting
approval to proceed with the work.

23. Also in Bechtel's SOW is the repair of marine vessels,
such as the pilot cutter and tugboats. As stated above,
this work is a priority of the Director of the Ports.


24. The port ceremonially opened to commercial traffic 16
June with a ribbon-cutting ceremony led by USAID
Administrator Andrew S. Natsios and Ambassador Olsen of
CPA/Lower South. SSA states that humanitarian assistance
shipments will remain their number one priority, even after
commercial shipments begin. No customs will be charged
throughout 2003, but customs checks will be made for
contraband and unmanifested cargo.


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