Massive LD 50-billion development of Tobruk unveiled; railway to Sudan to be built

By Libya Herald reporter.

Tripoli, 26 October 2016:

Beida-based Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni has announced major plans for the development of Tobruk. There will be a new deep water port which will be the largest in Libya, a new commercial new airport, also to be the largest in the country, and a railway heading south to Sudan.

The three projects, which will are budgeted at LD 50 billion, will be built over a three-year period.

In addition, Thinni said in his interview with Al-Hadath TV, there are plans for 10,000 new housing units, a 300-bed hospital and development of the new university.

Funding for the three projects will come from a consortium of Chinese investors, he explained. He did not name them but on this scale they would have to be Chinese state-owned enterprises.

The contracts will be on a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis with transfer taking place after 20 years.

Other projects elsewhere will also be built on the same BOT terms, he added.

The projects will turn Tobruk, already a main oil terminal, into a major commercial hub to rival if not outstrip Misrata. The plan is seen as a financial “thank-you” to the town, the seat of the House of Representatives (HoR), for its political support both to the HoR and the Beida government.

The announcement indicates a significant development in commercial relations with China. Although it is not known which Chinese companies will be involved, Chinese constructors such as the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), have been holding out for compensation for losses incurred as a result of the 2011 revolution. Successive Libyan governments since 2011 have refused to countenance compensation but have offered to offset Chinese losses with new, additional contracts.

In something of a breakthrough two and a half years ago, CSCEC agreed to resume work on 20,000 housing units in Benghazi in return for being given the additional contract for the infrastructure work. In the event, however, the security situation prevented any work being carried out.

As to the railway project, it represents something of a coup for Beijing. In 2008, the China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) was awarded the contract to build the Ras Jedir-Sirte section of Libya’s new railway network as well as the 800-km line from Misrata to Wadi Shatti north of Sebha, an area rich in iron ore deposits.

Russian Railways was given the contract to build the line between Sirte and the Egyptian border.

Since the revolution all work has been suspended.

So far, there have been no statements in Beijing about the new projects. Nor is it clear where the new railway will link with the Sudanese network. The nearest track to the Libyan border is 1,000 kilometres away and current Sudanese development plans do not include laying track towards the border.

The development of the new University of Tobruk, hived off from the Beida-based Omar Mukhtar University, has already started. Plans for the new campus were unveiled at the end of July.

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