Ecuador's Manta port authority APM is looking for a strategic partner to carry out a US$73mn improvement plan, APM communications official Fernando Olguin told BNamericas.
The project, to be backed by the national government, will be carried out in two stages from 2011-2014, and aims to boost the port's capacity to handle large ships by increasing its depth to 16-18m from 12m.
First-stage works, budgeted at US$13mn, will consist of remodeling of the port building, improving docks and dredging the bay.
The US$60mn second stage will involve building a deepwater dock and expanding the port area, Olguin said.
In 2005, Manta port handled 38,749 TEUs; however, activity has dropped dramatically, with the port handling just 3,924 TEUs in 2009, according to figures from APM.
Manta port was concessioned in 2006 to Terminales Internacionales de Ecuador (TIDE), controlled by Hong Kong-based Hutchison Port Holdings (HPH), for a 30-year period.
HPH was the only company to submit an offer for the port, offering to invest US$523mn to build a deepwater port capable of handling 2.2mn containers a year.
In February last year, however, TIDE said it was withdrawing from the concession, accusing authorities of making unilateral changes to the contract.
APM and TIDE have yet to reach an agreement over control of the port.