BISSAU, July 24 (Reuters) - French firm Necotrans and the Philippines' International Container Terminal Services submitted bids on Monday to operate Guinea Bissau's main port, the transport minister said, as the government looks to cede control to a private operator.
The main port in the capital Bissau, which is small and can only be serviced at high tide by some cargoes, has been operated by a state agency ever since the government stripped Portugal-based operator Tertir of the concession rights in 1999.
"The French company Necotrans and the Philippines' ICTSI are neck-and-neck to exploit the commercial port of Bissau," Transport Minister Fidelis Forbes told reporters in Bissau. The government will select the operator next month, he said.
The winner of the contract will also pay the 5.9 million euro ($6.9 million) debt the government was ordered by an arbitrator to compensate Tertir for breaking its contract, Forbes said.
A former Portuguese colony, cashew-producing Guinea-Bissau has been plagued by repeated coups since 1980 that have spawned political instability and helped make the West African country a haven for South American cocaine traffickers.
$1 = 0.8595 euros Reporting By Alberto Dabo; Writing by Aaron Ross; editing by Susan Thomas