Port upgrades and expansion programmes to support growth in Aqaba

The Port of Aqaba has long provided a gateway not only to Jordan but also to the wider region. Recent times have seen the port undergo a number of major modernisation and expansion schemes, with new facilities and more efficient systems now in place.

However, despite the upgrades, there is still room to streamline procedures and reduce bottlenecks. A lack of space is also a challenge, with plans for a dry port welcomed but the exact location remaining a subject of some debate. But perhaps the defining obstacle for the port in coming years will involve promoting activity in an environment characterised by a broader regional economic slowdown.

Facility Layout

Operated by the Aqaba Company for Ports Operation and Management – which is owned by the Aqaba Development Corporation (ADC) – the Port of Aqaba has an annual capacity of 28m tonnes of cargo and can accommodate 410, 000-tonne vessels. The port has continued to grow, with increased demand and the need for deeper waters spreading it further south of the city.

The entire facility is made up of three areas. The main port area comprises 12 berths, a total length of 2120 metres and a maximum draught of 14.4 metres. The middle port has a total 1000 metres of quay and seven additional berths, including a floating facility, a dolphin structure with a conveyor belt for handling cement, a roll-on/roll-off dock, passenger landing facilities and the Aqaba Container Terminal (ACT). The southern industrial port is the smallest, with four berths totalling 640 metres in length and including oil and timber loading/offloading facilities.


The ACT is Jordan’s only container terminal, managed as a joint venture between the Aqaba Development Corporation and APM Terminals of the Netherlands. The Dutch firm took over the management and operations side in 2004 and two years later was the beneficiary of a 25-year joint development agreement for the facility. The terminal is now the second-busiest on the Red Sea after Jeddah Islamic Port, and currently serves 20 of the world’s top shipping lines. At the end of 2016 the government approved a third phase of expansions at the port, which will be built in tandem with ongoing second-phase work. The goal of this accelerated programme is to boost capacity and decrease ship wait times. In addition, a new Customs centre owned by the ADC opened in early 2017 to speed up onshore processes. The facility has cut clearance times for imported containers from five to two days through the utilisation of 44 inspection ramps that can process a total of 220-250 containers per day. “Operationally, everything is in excellent shape. The dwell time – the average number of days a container stays in the terminal – was 13.5 in June 2015, a year later it was 10.7 and now it’s 8.5,” Vincent Flamant, chief commercial officer of ACT, told OBG.

Future Plans

Challenges the port faces going forward may be related to logistical bottlenecks on one hand and geopolitical issues on the other. Once out of the terminal, most cargo begins the long journey north to Amman and other major urban areas. However, logistics facilities in the port area itself are limited by available land – a scarce commodity in Aqaba partly due to its geographical location between mountains, and land and sea boarders.

As a result, the construction of a dry port in Ma’an was proposed, but this is still some 150 km away from the terminal. Increasing capacity to the Aqaba Railway Corporation’s rail line, which hauls phosphate cargo from Abiad to Aqaba – passing through Ma’an – could ease logistical burdens; however, this might prove costly. Israel’s plans for a railway from Haifa may speed up Jordan’s decision-making. If built, the line could rival Aqaba’s ability to move goods between the Mediterranean Sea and Arabian Peninsula, cutting into profits. The year ahead, therefore, may see crucial choices being made around Jordan’s key port.

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The Report: Jordan 2018

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