in a long- term project spearheaded by the port authority." The port currently has seven berths dealing with a wide range of general cargo, from project cargos and steel billets through to grain and chemicals. Two new deep- draught berths are to be constructed over the next three years. " We will also be dredging the existing berths and the channel into the port, extending the draught from 11 metres to 14 metres, and enabling us to receive super Panamax vessels," Al Fadhli explains. Dredging, which is due to begin shortly, should be completed within a year and will be carried out in phases so there will always be six berths in full operation at any one time. To complement this, APS is also investing in the latest port handling equipment such as 100- ton harbour cranes, grain unloaders and ship loaders for raw materials. The investments are certainly well timed. " Since renewing the contract nine months ago, volumes of Yanbu Commercial Port is operated and managed by Ajwa Port Services ( APS), a company which began as the logistics arm of Ajwa Group, a major Saudi Arabian processor and supplier of food products with a division specialising in grain, rice and edible oils. Now a fully fledged division of Ajwa Group in its own right, APS not only manages Yanbu Commercial Port but is also contracted to operate part of the much bigger Jeddah Islamic Port. APS's role at Yanbu was reinforced in November 2008, when its contract to operate and manage the commercial port was extended for another 10 years. " We will now be committing about 200 million riyal over the next 10 years to develop the existing port," says general manager Saleh Al Fadhli. " There will also be expansion. An island that is part of the port complex will be transformed into a free zone port, Ajwa Port Services September / October 09 www. bus- ex. com 45 " In the next two years, imports of wheat are likely to reach three million tons, and this could rise to ten million tons by 2015, so we will be gearing Yanbu to receive at least 20 per cent of this"