In a key milestone for Iraq’s maritime sector, The Grand Welcome Yard (GWY), situated within Umm Qasr Port, will be officially operational on June 1st. Using advanced technology, GWY is expected to streamline and facilitate international trade through the port, removing current bottlenecks and delays.
This important project has been brought to fruition by the Al-Raiya Group, in partnership with the General Company of the Ports of Iraq (GCPI) and other Iraqi authorities. According to Ali Al-Saffar, director, “The GWY dry port is the first of its kind in the country and reflects Al-Raiya’s commitment to Iraq’s development and progress. The opening of this facility will significantly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of port operations, leading to a massive improvement in Iraq’s maritime sector.”
Construction work on GWY, which covers a total area of 1.5 million m2, started in 2019 and a soft launch of the first phase, occupying 650,00m2, was undertaken in late 2022. The subsequent trials have demonstrated the benefits it will bring, particularly to the speed of Customs clearance, which is expected to be reduced from 40-60 hours to typically 2 hours or less, using Single Window systems and technology.
Ali says, “GWY is a fully automated dry port that will really address the Customs issues that have been holding back the growth of international trade in Iraq. We will be providing a Single Window solution across 65 different services, with all ministerial functions, including Trade, Health, Environment and Defence, represented on site to facilitate communications on any issues.”
At the heart of the GWY operation will be an Eagle M60 scanner from Rapscan, one of the most advanced in the world, and the first time technology of this type has been employed in Iraq. Ali says, “We have aimed to implement the most advanced, ISO-standard compliant technologies into everyday operations. The systems that have been developed and installed will completely eliminate manual and paper-reliant processes and procedures and allows import, export and transit data to be accurately controlled, ensuring security and transparency for users and operators.”
All containers and cargoes coming through Umm Qasr Port in future will be channeled through the GWY, which will offer a range of services and facilities on site, including Container Freight Station (CFS), Dangerous Goods warehousing and empty and full container handling, amongst others.
Alongside the opening of GWY, Al-Raiya and its partners are also developing road and gate infrastructure connecting the site to the port, allowing more than 4000 truck movements a day to be completed.
Ali concludes, “The investments that have been made in the GWY, and in the associated road and gate infrastructure, will allow the port to operate at an optimum capacity and will lead to an increase in economic activity and growth. The opening of GWY represents a significant step towards a brighter future for Iraq’s maritime sector and provides fresh opportunities for businesses wishing to trade with, and invest in Iraq.”