Riyadh: Container volumes at Saudi Arabia's ports rose 9.8 per cent in October to 13.5 million tons compared with the year earlier, the Saudi Ports Authority said Sunday.

Imports at the kingdom's eight ports rose by 9.9 per cent to 5.5 million tons in October, while exports increased 9.7 per cent to 7.9 million tons, the port authority said in a report.

In the January-October period, total container volumes handled by the ports in the Arab world's largest economy came in at 126.6 million tons versus 117.5 million tons during the same period a year earlier.

Saudi Arabia, which imports the bulk of its food, handles some 12,000 ships annually, more than one ship an hour.

Last year, the kingdom's container volumes fell 8.8 per cent to 142.3 million tons compared with 154.9 million tons in 2008. The ports authority of the world's top oil exporter expects its cargo volumes to rise between 10 per cent and 12 per cent.

Saudi Arabia plans to invest one billion Saudi riyals (Dh one billion) in developing the infrastructure of its port.

The Gulf state also aims to create an independent company that will manage the kingdom's ports.