São Tomé announces international tender for deep sea port project

São Tomé and Príncipe, a group of islands off the coast of West Africa, has launched a tender for the construction of a  deep water port, Osvaldo Abreu, the minister for infrastructure, said on Tuesday, 19 November.

The São Tomé Press Agency reported that the port, which is to be built as a public-private partnership, will be sited in Fernão Dias, a settlement on the northern shore of the island of São Tomé.

Abreu said the port that would have at least one multipurpose terminal and after the first phase of construction would be able to dock ships of up to 30,000 tons with a draft of up to 16m.

He added that the aim of the scheme would be to "transform São Tomé and Príncipe into a service platform for the central and western Africa region, to give the new port a vocation for transhipment of containers and goods from various parts of the world to countries in the region".

Bids to build the port would have to be submitted by 20 January, and should include financing, negotiation of concession contracts, as well as the expected construction period.

No price was given for the project, however the agency quoted "sources linked to the project" as saying the value was expected to be between $500m and $800m. The GDP of the country was $391m in 2017.

The international tender follows a number of reports in the past four years that Chinese companies were interested in building a port on the island.

In 2015, it was announced that talks were under way with the China Harbour Engineering Company over the building of an $800m port, in which the Chinese side was expected to invest $120m.

In January 2017, the China Road & Bridge Corporation was linked to the scheme and in August 2018, Macau Legend Development reportedly expressed interest. Then, in February this year, Abreu said negotiations with China were at an "advanced stage" to build a multifunctional port with unnamed Chinese companies.

Image: São Tomé and Príncipe has an agricultural economy, but is developing an oil industry (Zoika Naskova/CC BY-SA 4.0)

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