Work will begin before the end of the year on Mauritania’s first deepwater port in the city of Nouadhibou.
The Saharan state, which has a population of 4.3 million and a nominal GDP of $5bn, is 90% desert. It has large deposits of iron ore, gold, and copper, as well as rich fisheries, but lacks infrastructure needed for exports.
The announcement was made by Mohamed Ould Daf, the president of the Nouadhibou Free Zone (ZFN), to investment forum earlier this week. He said a feasibility study for the project had already been concluded.
The country’s economy is set for rapid growth following the discovery of offshore oil and gas deposits, and an infrastructure boom is expected.
The new port will be developed as free trade zone to attract foreign investment. A small port was built in the city by the Chinese in the 1980s. This was designed to handle 500,000 tonnes of cargo a year, but by 2009 was attempting to process three times that amount.
Ould Daf said the Nouadhibou facility would have a depth of 18m – sufficient to accommodate large modern ships – and would "radically change the commercial scene in the sub-region" for fishing, mining and trade.
He added that these sectors have suffered from prohibitive shipping costs.
Nouadhibou is Mauritania’s second city, with a population of 120,000.
Image: Nouadibou’s present harbour (Bertramz/Creative Commons)