Iraq has awarded a $518-million contract to expand oil export facilities in the south of the country to a subsidiary of Australian firm Leighton International, the government said on Tuesday. The project must be implemented within 16 months and will be funded by a Japanese government loan, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement. The total value of the contract is $518,157,000 (390,745,000 euros) and was awarded to Leighton's Singapore-registered subsidiary, Leighton Offshore. The project is to build a single point mooring loading buoy and a sea export pipeline "in order to increase the export capacities for the oil ports in the south to handle the increased crude oil production that will come after the oil auctions," Dabbagh said. He was referring to a series of public auctions held between mid-2009 and late 2010 by the Iraqi government in which several contracts were awarded to foreign firms to ramp up production at oil and gas fields nationwide. Having awarded those contracts, Baghdad is also seeking to improve its export infrastructure. Tuesday's announcement follows the September 14 awarding of a $468.5-million contract to expand oil export facilities in the southern port city of Basra to Italian firm Saipem. Around 80 percent of Iraq's oil exports are transported through its southern ports, with crude sales accounting for the lion's share of government revenues. Iraq said on Monday that crude output was now 2.9 million barrels per day (bpd), and will rise to three million bpd by the end of the year. It says it will be able to produce around 12 million bpd by 2017, although the International Monetary Fund has said these projections are too high.