Qatar has unveiled plans to invest at least US$10 billion in US ports and has approached international banks for financing help for infrastructure developments.
In particular, Doha was targeting investments in ports around the US East Coast, which were expected to be developed in phases.
“The Qataris have been preparing for almost a year to test the waters with US port investments,” said Michael Frodl, a US-based adviser on projects including maritime security, commerce and infrastructure, who is familiar with Qatar’s strategy.
The country’s sovereign wealth fund (SWF) Qatar Investment Authority and the Qatar Government Communication Office both declined to comment.
Qatar looks to invest mainly in the East Coast, according to Frodl, who explained that the West Coast is getting all the US government and private investment attention, while the East Coast “is long overdue for improvements.”
He also noted that ports with easy access to highways and rail lines would be a priority, as well as ageing medium-sized ports south of Boston and north of Jacksonville.
The investments would be backed by debt, which would be linked to the port assets. Qatar was in early discussions with banks including Morgan Stanley, HSBC and Credit Suisse, to look for a structuring adviser, according to Reuters. All of them, however, declined to comment.
In November, Congress approved US President Joe Biden’s US$1.2 trillion infrastructure package, which includes US$5.22 billion of federal funding for port-specific programmes, according to a statement.
The US transport secretary, Pete Buttigieg said, “We’re going to have to keep working with local, state and private partners in order to make sure that we have the kinds of resources that are needed.”
There are around 360 ports in the United States, according to the US Coast Guard, and Qatar, which, according to Frodl had expressed interest in investing in US infrastructure from at least 2016, looks to target three port projects.
Currently, Qatar has minimal holdings in overseas ports. However, last year the state’s commercial ports operator, QTerminals, purchased the Turkish port of Akdeniz and entered into an agreement to develop the Black Sea port of Olvia in Ukraine.