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Posted on Friday, 14 March 2014 16:41

Côte d'Ivoire: Abidjan port aims for regional supremacy

By Olivier Monnier in Abidjan

Abidjan port’s upgrade will give it the largest capacity in West Africa. Photo©Nabil ZorkotCôte d'Ivoire has launched massive upgrades to its ports to support the growth of the natural resource sector and to attract more of the regional transit trade.

 

Buoyed by the economic recovery of the past two years and rising traffic levels, the Côte d'Ivoire government is implementing large-scale investments to upgrade its two international harbours, Abidjan and San Pedro.

The Abidjan harbour is the site of a $2.5bn expansion project, due to be completed in 2020.

The vast project comprises the construction of a second container terminal, the expansion of a minerals terminal and the enlargement of the Vridi Canal.

The plans will enable the port to handle 2.25m twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), which would make it the port with the largest capacity in West Africa.

The Port Autonome d'Abidjan, the country's largest port, recorded a traffic increase of 7% in 2013, which is a provisional figure that does not include oil shipments.

In 2012, it handled 21.7m tn, a 31% rise from the 16.6m tn recorded in 2011.

Container traffic also expanded 16% over the same period to 633,917 TEUs.

These figures are expected to rise even more. As the economy of the world's largest cocoa producer is bouncing back following the end of a decade-long political and social crisis in 2011, gross domestic product growth reached 9% in 2013.

Abidjan port director Yacouba Hien Sie says that the port plans not only depend on Côte d'Ivoire's growth.

He says the goal is to "reposition our port and give it the opportunity to fully play its role to the benefit of the national and regional economy".

Disputed tender

In December 2013, the Ivorian authorities and Bolloré Africa Logistics signed a public-private partnership deal, paving the way for the construction of a second container terminal.

According to the government, investment in that project will amount to as much as 403bn CFA francs ($825m), including 243bn from the government.

The new terminal will have a 1,100m long and 18m deep dock. Work is due to last four years.

The deal was signed despite a disputed bidding process. Bolloré – which already runs the first container terminal – and its partners beat bids from two groups led by Geneva-based Mediterranean Shipping Company and Marseille-based CMA CGM.

The competition department of the Union Economique et Monétaire Ouest-Africaine is still investigating the tender won in March 2013 by Bolloré's consortium, which includes France's Bouygues and APM Terminals.

Monopoly row

In May, CMA CGM's consortium called for an annulment of the bid and made an appeal to Côte d'Ivoire's public procurement authority.

After the regulator dismissed the appeal, the group brought the case to the West African economic body, citing irregularities in the pre-selection procedure, non-compliance with competition laws and an arbitrary award process.

Commerce minister Jean-Louis Billon also denounced the monopoly created by the deal, saying Bolloré should not have been allowed to bid because it controls the first terminal.

CMACGM decided to drop the challenge in July, but its partners have not withdrawn their complaint.

Despite criticism from many economic operators, who are worried about high costs due to the lack of competition, the government said in January the new terminal will improve the harbour's competitiveness and lower the prices by as
much as 40%.

Among the other projects included in the upgrade of the Abidjan port, the minerals terminal will be expanded to meet demand from the booming min­ ing sectors in Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire and Mali.

The port author­ ities aim to handle 3m tn of miner­als, including manganese and zinc, by 2020 – up from 300,000tn cur­rently.

China Harbour Engineering will also enlarge the Vridi Canal to enable larger ships to dock.

The works, due to last three years, are supposed to start this year.

In the meantime, the western port of San Pedro, the country's main port for cocoa exports, also aims to expand and boost its traffic by increasing trans­ shipments and attracting cotton and cashew exports away from the port of Abidjan.

The port has forecast that its traffic will rise 31% in 2013 to 4.2m tn from 3.2m tn a year earlier.

Transshipments were set to in­ crease to 2.8m tn from 1.9m tn in 2012.

The harbour has begun to ship cotton from Mali and handled 21,000tn of the commodity last year while boosting exports of cashews to 17,000tn from 2,000tn recorded in 2012. The port au­ thorities target a goal of 4.5­5m tn of goods in 2014, and as much as 10m tn in 2015.

San Pedro too will be upgraded.

Officials are banking on the mining potential in the west of the country to build a minerals terminal.

The new terminal project, estimated by transport minister Gaoussou Touré to cost $2bn, includes a 500km rail line linking the port to nickel and iron­ore mines. ●



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