During January this year 81 ships docked in the port of Aqaba in Jordan. In?
During January this year 81 ships docked in the port of Aqaba in Jordan. In the same last year (1975) only 25 ships docked in the port. The difference is accounted for partly by the modernisation and development of the port facilities; partly because of the implementation of a new agreement between Jordan and Iraq; and partly because of the crisis in Beirut which forced a great deal of shipping into other ports.
Aqaba is Jordan's only outlet to the sea, and it is the key to the whole future development of the country. Until a few years ago, Jordanian territory along the Gulf of Aqaba extended for only three miles. It was hemmed in on one side by Israel, and on the other by Saudi Arabia. But under an agreement with Saudi Arabia, Jordan obtained from the Saudis a strip of territory fourteen miles long down the east side of the Gulf. This provided the Jordanian Government with more room for expansion and development in the area.
Nevertheless, because of the limited area, Aqaba's development has been strictly controlled. Private enterprise has been allowed only in accordance with the Government's master plan, and consequently it is now a remarkably orderly town which is split into three zones -- tourist, commercial, and port.
The port started on a commercial scale in 1953, and it has been steadily expanding ever since. Now it is about to undertake its most ambitious development scheme ever, into which it is proposed to invest as much as fifteen per cent of the country's entire development budget.
At present the port, run as a separate authority with an autonomous budget under the Ministry of Transport, handles about 300,000 tons of imports a year, and nearly a million tons of exports which are almost entirely phosphates.
The port can be divided up conveniently into two areas -- the general cargo area, which is mainly for imports, and the phosphate handling area for exports. There are no fixed cranes, only mobile ones which can lift up to 70 tons. In addition there are four large covered storage areas, and five older closed storage sheds.
The new five-year plan foresees a great expansion of the port's facilities. The general cargo berth will be extended to given a further two large berths, together with storage and handling equipment. A cold storage plant for perishable imports as well as exports is planned which could make off-season vegetables an important source of revenue. There will also be a staggering increase in phosphate exports -- ten million tons by 1980.
With development on this scale, Jordan sees Aqaba as a new industrial centre. It is hoped that this will reverse the magnetic effect of Amman, the capital, which has drained the rest of the country of labour. The only danger that officials foresee in these plans, is the possible serious pollution to the air and sea the new plant may cause.