BEIRUT: The first of two electricity-producing barges aimed at reducing power rationing entered Lebanese territorial waters over the weekend. Fatmagul Sultan, owned by Turkish firm Karkey Karadeniz Elektrik Uretim, could boost Lebanon’s struggling power supply by a maximum of 205 megawatts, if run at full capacity, enabling much needed repairs and upgrades on the country’s power plants.
“The power barge set its anchor in the port which Karadeniz has especially built for the mooring of the first power barge once the weather conditions are stable,” Karkey Karadeniz said in a statement.
A Beirut Port representative could not confirm the time of arrival or at which port the vessel would dock.
“Initially, it was expected to dock near the Zouk power plant,” the representative told The Daily Star.
“But we have not received anything official with regard to the docking time and whether it will be at Beirut [Port],” he added.
Falisca, the towboat delivering the vessel, was seen about 10 km off the coast of Jounieh Sunday afternoon according to marinetraffic.com, a website that tracks international maritime traffic using GPS technology.
In July 2012, Lebanon signed a $360 million three-year contract to lease electricity-generating barges from the Turkish firm. The two barges combined are expected to generate 270 MW of electricity.
Preparations are under way to receive the second barge at the Jiyieh power plant, south of Beirut, during the coming few months, the company said.
Lebanon suffers from severe electricity shortages as the country only produces 1,500 MW per day while consumption exceeds 2,400 MW.
Speaking to reporters Friday, Energy Minister Gebran Bassil said the two barges would allow Electricite du Liban to reduce power rationing in Lebanon by between two and three hours every day.
Some critics have slammed the agreement with Karkey Karadeniz Elektrik Uretim, pointing to a scandal that the company has been involved in with Pakistan. Islamabad filed a lawsuit against the company two years ago for failing to abide by its contracts.
Pakistan confiscated two power barges for a few weeks to force the company to pay compensation, while the Turkish company has pledged to take the case to the International Court of Arbitration.
According to the contract, the Turkish company is obliged to pay a fine to the Lebanese government if it fails to deliver the two barges on time, or in case of its failure to deliver the agreed electricity supply.