Nigeria: Bolloré Ports aims for Lagos quay rebuilding agreement before elections

By David Whitehouse
Posted on Friday, 17 June 2022 12:12

Apapa port in Lagos. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja
Apapa port in Lagos. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja

Bolloré Ports is aiming to reach agreement for a quay rebuilding programme at ports in Lagos before elections in 2023, Stanislas de Saint Louvent, deputy CEO of Bolloré Ports, tells The Africa Report at The Africa CEO Forum in Abidjan.

Quays at Lagos’s ports are currently unable to support large cranes, meaning only small mobile ones can be used. That extends the waiting times of ships, which currently stand at 20 days or more, and slows the movement of goods.

Bolloré is proposing to rebuild the quay at Tincan in Lagos, but that project needs to be part of an coordinated rebuilding programme, de Saint Louvent says. “It can’t be just us. It has to be the whole port ecosystem.” Greater fluidity of goods through the city’s ports would be the benefit of an integrated approach, he adds.

  • A key aim is to secure agreement before Nigeria’s election in February 2023 to avoid delays. “Our target is to get an agreement with the existing administration.”

The World Bank’s Container Port Performance Index 2021 report ranks the Lagos ports as 358th out of 370 ports globally. Problems outdated infrastructure, lack of equipment such as scanners and the need to deal with multiple official agencies. Once outside the ports, the onward flow of goods is constrained by the poor state of the roads.

In terms of inland logistics, Bolloré’s use of barges eases road congestion and, for deliveries outside Lagos, the city can be avoided altogether. The company is investing in further container depots which are close to the laguna but outside the city, where goods can be cleared by customs before onward barge transport.

  • There’s scope for Bolloré to increase its use of barges in Nigeria, de Saint Louvent says. “There’s still room for growth,” though finding suitable land is a constraint.

Regional prospects

In March, MSC Group agreed to buy Bolloré Africa Logistics, including Bolloré’s shipping, logistics and terminals operations in Africa. Bolloré Africa Logistics will be kept as an autonomous entity, with the transaction due to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2023.

Efficiency problems at west African ports are “limited to specific places” and perceptions of poor performance lag behind improving realities, de Saint Louvent argues. The ports at Conakry and Freetown are developing well, and Tema port in Ghana is “absolutely not congested.”

In West African regional terms, the one port which is currently “temporarily struggling” to keep up with economic growth is Abidjan. The port remains primarily export driven, and a new terminal to open before the end of the year for imports and exports will address the problem, de Saint Louvent says.

He sees Kribi port, the only deep sea port in Cameroon, as having the potential to become a regional power house.

  • This month, Bolloré Transport & Logistics opened the Kribi Logistics Hub near the container terminal.
  • Phase two of the Chinese-financed port is starting soon with the construction of a new quay which will increase capacity and allow double berthing.
  • Douala port 150km to the north remains constrained by its status as a river port, de Saint Louvent says. “The future main port of Cameroon and the region is Kribi.”

Bottom line

Bolloré is confident that west Africa’s ports are gearing up for an era of expansion.

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