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News ::
Seattle Based Company Gets In On Rape Of Iraq (english)
25 Mar 2003
Stevedoring Services of America contact info: E-mail: webmail (at) ssofa.com, (800) 422-3505 Toll Free, (206) 623-0304 Phone, (206) 623-0179 (Fax). Ed DeNike, Chief Operating Officer: (206) 623.0304
By JOHN COOK
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

Stevedoring Services of America, which oversees cargo administration at the Port of Seattle and 150 other locations worldwide, has won a $4.8 million contract to oversee the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr once it is completely secured by military forces.

Seattle-based Stevedoring Services will be responsible for the operation of the port, allowing food, medicine and other reconstruction materials into the channel at the southern portion of Iraq. The contract was awarded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is handing out eight contracts to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure after the war.

"It is a nice piece of business, and we are excited about it," said Bob Watters, vice president of the company's Asian operations. "But the real thrill for us is to be able to bring aid cargo into Iraq and supporting our military people."

The company sent 12 employees to Fort Benning, Ga., this week to receive security training. It plans to have about 15 employees, including civil engineers, in Iraq by April 2 to begin assessing the port's facilities.

That assessment period will last three weeks. Afterward, the company will operate the port for one year with a chance to win one-year contracts for the following two years.

Watters, whose firm operates ports in Egypt, South Africa and Vietnam, said the port at Umm Qasr has 23 berths where ships can tie up.

Although Umm Qasr is the largest port city in Iraq, Watters said it may pose some challenges logistically. He said the channel most likely will require dredging. Also, three wrecked ships that predate the U.S.-led attack this month are blocking access.

In addition, he said that it may be difficult to find the skilled labor necessary to load and unload cargo ships.

The company, which was founded in 1949 and employs about 12,000 people, has never operated in a war zone before.

"We are pretty well-versed around the world, but never have we done anything in a war-type environment," Watters said. "It is a very unique situation for us."

Asked about specific challenges of operating in a war zone, Watters said, "I don't know yet."

Ellen Yount, a spokeswoman for USAID, declined to comment on how many companies bid for the work. Stevedoring Services was chosen through a formal bidding process, she said.

"We anticipate that they will be positioning themselves in the region immediately, so once the port is secure, they are able to go in and begin assessing the process," Yount said. "We are not at that point yet."

Umm Qasr has been the scene of intense fighting. Yesterday, coalition troops were still encountering pockets of resistance, including some members of Saddam Hussein's paramilitary organization. In some cases, these forces were dressed in civilian clothes.

Securing the city is an important step in establishing relief efforts in Iraq. The reconstruction plan for Iraq, a nation about the size of France with 24 million people, will take about 18 months, USAID records showed.

The contract, which could be extended through 2006, covers improvements to the port, unloading and storing cargo, managing customs, handling security, coordinating with the Navy to mark several wrecked ships, and working with a separate USAID contractor that will dredge the port. USAID's separate capital construction contract likely will be the largest at up to $600 million for 21 months. A spokesman for the organization said it will be awarded this week.

Other contracts covering education, public health, local government and logistics such as trucking, warehousing and managing the country's airports may be awarded next week.

P-I reporter John Cook can be reached at 206-448-8075 or johncook (at) seattlepi.com This report includes information from Bloomberg News.
See also:
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/114007_stevedoring25.shtml
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