Côte d’Ivoire approves €400m project to create West African port hub

Work is set to begin on the expansion of the port of Abidjan in the Côte d’Ivoire after an agreement was signed between French logistics company Bolloré, Dutch port operator APM Terminals, and China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), the contractor that will carry out the work.

The €400m project will add a second container terminal to Abidjan on reclaimed land. This Côte d’Ivoire Terminal (CIT) is scheduled to be complete by the end of next year, after which the developers will run the port during a 20-year concession period before transferring ownership to Abidjan Port Authority.

The expansion is expected to add 1.2 million containers a year to the port’s capacity, lengthen its quays by 1.1km and dredge an 18m-deep shipping channel, sufficient to accommodate ships with a carrying capacity of 14,000 containers and 350m in length. The present port has a depth of 11.5m.

West African economies are experiencing an economic boom, and GDP in Côte d’Ivoire is presently growing at around 7% a year.

However, their connection to global markets is impeded by inadequate port services.

In particular, most of the region’s harbours are unable to accommodate the huge container ships now favoured by shipping lines that are anxious to cut costs in a highly competitive logistics market.

There is a race among a number of West African countries to build modern deep-sea transshipment hubs that can act as the unloading point for goods that are then transferred to smaller ships able to navigate shallower ports (see further reading).

Koen De Backker, the managing director of CIT, commented in a press release: "Shipping lines have started to deploy very large container vessels on the trades to and from West Africa that need deep water facilities and modern terminals able to handle them with much higher productivity."

He added that the deep-water port should position Abidjan as the preferred gateway for Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, and allow it to act as a transshipment hub for Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

CHEC is a subsidiary of China Communications Construction; APM Terminals is a subsidiary of Danish shipper Maersk.

Image: Work has already been completed on reclaiming land for Côte d’Ivoire Terminal (APM)

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