Samsun Port on Turkey's Black Sea is transferred to private hands
The Turkish government has sold the rights to operate the Samsun Port in the Black Sea region for 36 years, marking another step in its ambitious privatization program.
The rights were sold to the Cey Group for $125.2 million, which the company paid in cash. A signing ceremony was conducted for the sale in Ankara on Tuesday.
Top government officials who spoke at the ceremony criticized the legal hurdles that they say are preventing them from selling off state assets more quickly. The State Council has a mandatory 60-day period in which to convey its opinion on the privatization of privileged assets on a case-by-case basis, Finance Minister Mehmet ?im?ek said, noting that ?in practice, it may take two years? or even longer.
Addressing journalists at the Rixos Hotel, ?im?ek said the tender to sell the port was conducted in May 2008, but its operation is only being transferred to private hands now.
Port services are considered privileged assets under the Constitution, so their sale must thus be approved by the State Council.
?This is a big waste of time. If this period was not so long, [the government] would not have borrowed as much as 125 billion Turkish Liras,? ?im?ek said. ?Maybe the Samsun Port would also have been in a better situation now. I hope that privatizations will be conducted faster from now on.?
In order to better compete with neighboring countries, the minister added, Turkey needs better ports, which, in turn, requires the private sector"s involvement.
?Otherwise, foreign trade would be conducted through neighboring ports,? he said. ?Since 2001, we have managed to increase the capacity of Turkish ports fourfold.?
New investments in docks
With Tuesday"s signatures, the Cey Group will start a 36-year period operating the Samsun Port. A company organized within the group, Samsunport-Samsun International Port Management, plans to invest $32 million in the port. Cey Group Chairman Ali Avc? said the company had received a loan of $125.2 million from the state-owned Vak?fbank.
?The Samsun Port is a key hub for booming trade with Black Sea nations. We aim to revise the port and increase trade volume,? the Anatolia news agency quoted Avc? as saying. ?We want this port to be among the best ports in Turkey and to be the transport center of the Black Sea.?
Turkey has 174 ports and docks, 25 of which are public, 27 municipality-owned and 122 operated by private companies. Nearly 85 percent of Turkey"s foreign trade is conducted through ports.
A similar sale of operating rights was previously conducted at the Mersin Port, on the Mediterranean, Transport Minister Binali Y?ld?r?m noted. ?In 2007, the port processed 644,000 containers,? he said. ?Despite the crisis, the figure rose to 855,000 containers last year. In load terms, 2007"s 14 million tons increased to 15.3 million tons in the same period.?
Before 2008, the Mersin Port employed 1,128 workers; after the sale, that figure rose to 1,560, Y?ld?r?m added.
The operating rights of the Mersin Port were sold for $750 million.
The minister said he believed Samsun"s export volume, which rose from $30 million to nearly $700 in seven years, will further increase with private-sector involvement. He added that operating rights for the Band?rma Port, near Istanbul, will also be transferred to the private sector soon.