African ports and harbours Africa's gateway to world trade.
Docking, shipping, documentation, safety, security and clearing and forwarding all form part of the cost of doing business; efficiency at the ports and harbours translates into lower costs, greater volumes of trade and higher profits--all benefits which are often passed on the ultimate consumer through lower prices. Inefficiency, on the other hand has the opposite effects and adds on costs and curtails the volume of goods entering and leaving a country.
Africa's ports, with some exceptions, have been generally inefficient--it is estimated that it costs as much to clear goods from Dakar port as it does to ship the same volume of goods from New York to Dakar. The UN estimates that the cost of shipping, clearing and transporting goods in Africa is double the global average.
There is therefore no doubt whatsoever that if Africa wishes to increase its share of world trade, which is currently around only 2%, it will have to invest heavily and wisely in its ports infrastructure. The good news, as this month's Cover Story reveals, is that the process has already begun. But there is still a long way to go before it can be said to be concluded.
This Special Report on African ports and harbours has been written by Neil Ford.
Modernising African Ports
The economies of almost all African states are based on trade with non-African countries so it is vital that the continent has reliable transport links to smooth the passage of goods.
Just as road and rail infrastructure has suffered from underinvestment in the decades since independence, the continent's ports have generally not received sufficient funding to ensure that capacity keeps pace with demand and new technology is introduced to boost efficiency. Yet investment in the port sector is now being stepped up as increased competition appears to be driving up standards.
According to a UN review of the African port sector, transport costs comprised 12.65% of the cost of imported goods in Africa, more than double the global average, while the figure for Africa's many landlocked states stood at 20.69%.
World Bank figures paint an even more pessimistic picture, revealing that although it costs between $1,000 and $1,200 to ship a container from Baltimore in the US to either Durban or Dar es Salaam, it costs a further $10,000 to $12,000 to transport a container from Dar es Salaam to Bujumbura in Burundi or from Durban to Mbabane in Swaziland.
These figures highlight the punitive level of transport costs in Africa and the inefficiency of existing road and rail freight transport systems. Yet on a more positive note they reveal that it is far cheaper to transport goods by water than by land over long distances.
The vast bulk of goods imported into or exported from Africa pass through its ports, so these windows on the world provide a key function in the economic life of the continent.
While the process of privatisation and awarding private sector management contracts has met with a mixed response in several industries, such as the water sector, it does seem to be paying off in the port sector. The improvements in turn-around times that Hutchison Port Holdings has achieved at Dar es Salaam's container terminal have forced the Tanzanian port's main competitor, Mombasa, to seek to improve its own services.
The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) has invested heavily in new cargo handling equipment at Mombasa and some improvements have been recorded but demand continues to increase and it now looks likely that a private sector operator will take control of the port in the future.
Nigeria is also pursuing a port concession programme. While the actual port infrastructure will remain the property of the state, private companies and consortia have been invited to bid for contracts to manage each port or port facility for periods varying from 10 to 25 years. The federal government hopes that private sector operators will be able to compete against one another to reduce turnaround times and provide an improved service for traders and shipping lines alike.
S Africa bucks the trend
Despite this trend, the South African government appears to have shied away from transferring port management to the private sector. As in Nigeria, the country's powerful trade union movement has organised a wave of strikes in protest against what it perceives as the privatisation of transport infrastructure of all kinds. However, unlike in Nigeria, Pretoria looks set to concede a great deal of ground to the unions.
Although a consortium will take control of the new Pier 1 at Durban Container Terminal (DCT), the state-owned South African Port Operations (SAPO) will probably take a leading role in the consortium.
In addition, the need for private sector investment and management seems less urgent in South Africa than elsewhere, given that DCT is already the biggest container terminal in Africa, while Cape Town and Port Elizabeth are among the more important.
However, the success of Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) since its development in 1976, demonstrates what private sector control can achieve. The port, which handles the lion's share of South Africa's massive coal exports, is owned by the country's coal giants and has emerged as the most important dry bulk port in Africa. A recent deal will give the country's black empowerment mining concerns access to the port as part of an expansion programme, but all funding is to be provided by the private sector.
South Africa's ports, which have long handled a large proportion of goods transported from or bound for the other Southern African Development Community (SADC) states, are facing increased competition from neighbouring ports in Mozambique and Namibia.
Improved road and rail links should ease the transport of freight across the region, while this process is likely to be stepped up as a result of economic integration. It is hoped that SADC customs tariffs can be harmonised by 2010 and this could not only boost intra-African trade but also SADC trade with the rest of the world via SADC ports.
South African businesses may be tempted to make use of Maputo and Walvis Bay because of spare capacity but also because of reduced sailing times as the two ports are several days closer to Asia and the North Atlantic Basin respectively than their South African equivalents. Angola's emergence from years of civil war could provide another outlet for SADC traders. The port of Luanda is being modernised to the tune of $130m, with the container terminal being expanded from 100,000 TEUs to 300,000 TEUs a year.
APM Terminals is managing the port under a 20-year contract that it secured in 2004, while roll-on roll-off terminals should be constructed at both Luanda and Lobito. In addition, an oil services terminal is planned for Luanda to serve the country's growing oil and gas industry, providing a similar option to the new oil services port of Luba in Equatorial Guinea.
Heart of economic plan
Apart from tying the oil and port sectors together, the development of industrial and manufacturing export zones at African ports is a growing trend. Port Said East and Sokhna in Egypt are both prime examples of this process, which the Egyptian government has placed at the heart of its economic programme.
By locating export-orientated business adjacent to modern ports, investors can reduce transport times considerably and target more overseas markets.
The Kenyan and Nigerian governments have planned more modest ventures at their own ports, while Coega Industrial Zone, close to Port Elizabeth in South Africa, is already under development.
Such schemes require a great deal of investment, but by including modern power, water, IT and transport infrastructure in each project from the outset it is hoped that overseas investors will find African countries a more attractive investment option. They can benefit from lower wage costs and attractive investment terms, often including low tax status, without having to overcome such traditional obstacles as poor transport connections and interrupted power supplies.
African ports have a key role to play in the African economic renaissance and it is vital that connections are made with the rest of the continent, so the economic benefits are not merely restricted to a handful of enclaves.
All this merely serves to underline the fact that an integrated transport network encompassing ports, railways and roads could drive real African growth.
Egypt now a major global shipping nexus
Region by Region
Egypt continues to lead the way in port sector expansion in North Africa. In addition to modernising existing port facilities at Alexandria, Damietta, Port Said, Safaga and Suez, the government has opted to develop two brand new ports with associated industrial zones at either end of the Suez Canal.
As well as helping to boost the country's manufacturing and industrial capacity, the new ports should help Egypt to reinforce its position as a shipping nexus of global importance. Situated on the edge of Africa, Asia and Europe, Egyptian ports are ideally located to act as hub ports.
The new Suez Canal Container Terminal (SCCT) at Port Said East on the northern side of the Suez Canal is one of the biggest port developments in the Mediterranean Basin in the current decade. It is being developed and managed by a consortium of Danish firm Maersk Sealand, ECT International and Egyptian interests under a 30-year contract.
Construction work began in 2002 and the port's first phase came into operation in the last quarter of 2004. When completed, SCCT will encompass liquid cargo and general cargo terminals as well as the container terminal, which has 12 super post-Panamax gantry cranes, four deep water berths and the capacity to handle 1.7m TEUs a year, making it one of the biggest container ports in Africa.
Sokhna will focus on Asian trade
While SCCT has been developed to help the port of Alexandria handle trade with Europe and North America via the Mediterranean and North Atlantic, the new port of Sokhna at the southern end of the Suez Canal focuses on Asian trade.
It too has been constructed at the heart of an export-orientated zone, the 9,000 hectare Suez Special Economic Zone (SSEZ), which is being developed in a series of stages by joint ventures of foreign and Egyptian companies. State-of-the-art infrastructure and a 10-year tax holiday is ensuring that investors have been eager to commit themselves.
Over $2bn in new investment has already been agreed, including UK firm Tate and Lyle's sugar refinery, a magnesium plant that is being developed by Magnesium International of Australia and a biodiesel plant, while an oil refinery is also planned.
The project is being developed by the Sokhna Port Development Company (SPDC) under a 25-year concession running from 1999. Most equity in SPDC is held by ECHCO, a joint venture of OCI and the chief executive and president of SPDC, Al Sharif. SPDC and the government jointly provided the $500m required to fund the first phase of the project, which became operational in 2002, in common with SCCT.
A spokesperson for SPDC said: "Phase One has been successfully completed, which in turn has attracted a host of investors eager to use the port as their operational hub for Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Development of the port will continue beyond 2020, based on the original master plan." He added: "In the wider region, Sokhna fits as a nodal centre with a perfect location, with no deviation, in one of the busiest trade lanes in the world. In addition to this are its capabilities in handling almost any kind of cargo and offering most of the ancillary services that relate to the shipping industry."
The scheme has been allocated enough land to ensure that it can continue to expand for decades to come. The current port plan calls for a massive 12km of berthing by 2020. The port handled 245,000 TEUs in 2004, while the liquid bulk terminal will soon complement the agri-bulk terminal. SPDC predicts that the port will handle 90mt of cargo by 2020, comprising 30mt of liquid bulk, 10mt of agri-bulk and 10mt of other dry bulk, plus 4m TEUs.
The Egyptian government is determined that the new ports should become the driving forces behind the national economy. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) supplied SPDC with a $20m loan and the director of the IFC's infrastructure department, Francisco Tourreilles, commented: "This project will have a significant development impact for Egypt, not only through the provision of efficient port services, but also by transforming Egypt's port sector through the introduction of private competition."
Governments across North Africa are seeking to make the most of their geographical location by developing export-orientated industries that require efficient port sectors.
The capacity of the port of Tangier in Morocco is being expanded to enable the country to capitalise on the free trade agreement with the European Union (EU) that will be fully implemented by 2012. A total of $1bn is being invested in port improvements and providing infrastructure for the associated industrial zone, which will be managed by private sector operators.
Nigeria, Ghana forge ahead with port reforms
Region by Region
Despite strong opposition from the country's trade union movement, Nigeria's port reform programme has continued to make process. The ports of the regional economic giant should dominate the whole of West Africa but although they are the most important in the region, low levels of efficiency and insufficient investment over many years have made them less attractive options for traders.
Now, however, the government hopes that breaking up the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) monopoly and transferring the control of some ports to private sector operators will help to turn around the fortunes of the sector.
The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), which is handling the entire concession process, officially handed control of the port of Apapa to the successful bidders at the start of April. APM Terminals, an offshoot of Danish shipping giant AP Moller, took control of Apapa Container Terminal; terminals A and B went to Apapa Bulk Terminal Limited; and terminals C and D were secured by ENL Consortium. The outcome of the bidding process was revealed last April but a series of delays, partly relating to redundancy plans for NPA staff, have postponed the handover until now.
APM Terminals will operate the container terminal as APM Terminals Apapa Ltd under a 25-year contract. Abiye Sekibo, the federal minister of transport, commented: "The signing of the agreement is a fulfilment of President Olusegun Obasanjo's vision of making Lagos ports the fulcrum of port operations in the sub-region. In addition, APM has agreed to train and employ Nigerians to form the bulk of its staff.
This is unlikely to stem opposition from Nigerian trade unions to the concession process, particularly as thousands of NPA employees have been made redundant. However, Nigeria's ports have had a reputation for very low levels of efficiency, with over-manning coupled with slow turnaround times. It is hoped that the new private sector operators that are taking over Apapa and other ports in the country will boost efficiency through a combination of training, new cargo handling equipment and improved processing systems.
The NPA has revealed that the new operators will be required to set up export zones at each port in order to boost the country's manufacturing capacity. Companies that invest in such zones will benefit from low taxes within a variety of sectors including chemical and metal processing. However, the main obstacle to the success of export processing zones could be the lack of government investment.
Developing adequate power and water supplies, plus rail and road links, will be expensive, as the recent experience of Coega in South Africa has demonstrated, and it seems unlikely that the port operators themselves will be able to foot the bill.
In addition, the federal government wants to widen the market for ports that have so far focused on serving a single industry. For example, the port of Ikot Abasi, at the mouth of the River Imo in the eastern Niger River Delta, is the only port in Akwa Ibom state but solely serves the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (Alscon).
The state government believes that investors could be attracted to the state's existing export processing zones if they could make use of the port's facilities.
Further west, the main development over the past three years has been the growth of trade at Ghana's ports at the expense of Abidjan in Cote d'Ivoire which has traditionally acted as the main entrepot for most of francophone West Africa. Landlocked countries such as Mali and Burkina Faso have relied on the port for almost all of their imports and exports. However, the Ivorian civil war left the country virtually divided in two and traders in most of the Sahel were forced to look elsewhere for their trading needs, while the proportion of cocoa exported through Ghana has greatly increased.
The Ghana Ports & Harbours Authority (GPHA) has made the most of the opportunity by investing in new cargo-handling equipment and adding capacity to its main ports.
GPHA has spent $17m on four rubber-tyred gantry cranes with lifting capacity of 40t and three ship-to-shore (STS) gantry cranes with 45t lifting capacity, which were acquired for the port of Tema from Chinese company Shanghai Zhenhua Port Machinery Company (ZPMC).
Work on Tema's modernisation programme, which incorporated the installation of new IT systems to speed up documentation processing, was completed by the end of last year.
The director general of GPHA, Ben Owusu Mensah, commented: "This makes the port of Tema the true gateway to the West Africa sub-region, serving Ghana's trade, the trades of our sister landlocked countries and the major transhipment port as envisaged in the government's gateway project."
Ghana Railways Company (GRC) hopes to improve its services to both Tema and Takoradi but a lack of financial muscle has restrained spending on new rolling stock and track infrastructure improvements. However, a new deal with the Ghana Bauxite Company (GBC), which is controlled by Canada's Alcan, should improve its financial strength.
Mombasa and Dar go head to head
Region by Region
The East African port sector has long been dominated by the rivalry between Mombasa in Kenya and Dar es Salaam to the south in Tanzania. Although there are other ports in the region, such as Tanga and Lindi in Tanzania, the two giants dominate trade across a wide swathe of eastern Africa through their respective railway networks.
Most recently, this rivalry has resulted in the issue of tenders for concessions to manage East Africa's railways in order to improve efficiency and inject new investment into the sector.
Mombasa has held a substantial lead over its Tanzanian rival for many years, handling a greater proportion of eastern Africa's trade. However, while the Kenyan port has remained in state hands, under the control of the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), management of Dar es Salaam's container terminal has been transferred to a private sector operator.
One of the world's biggest ports operators, Hutchison Port Holdings, has achieved a great deal of success through its Tanzania International Container Terminal Services (TICTS) offshoot. Turn-around times have fallen and capacity has risen, prompting the KPA to try a variety of initiatives in competition.
In February, however, the Kenyan government announced that the KPA would be privatised during financial year 2006-07. Although the timetable for the sale may slip and it is possible that political pressure may result in the state retaining ownership of Mombasa--whilst offering a long term concession for port management--it seems likely that a private sector operator will be in control of the port before too long. Mombasa has experienced a series of problems over the past couple of years, including persistent delays in processing cargo and unloading vessels.
However, to a large extent, these problems have been borne out of success. The volume of cargo handled increased by 2.8% in 2005 on 2004, up from 12,920,123t to 13,280,747t, although much of the new capacity that has been planned has yet to be commissioned. Growth was particularly strong in the import of agricultural products, although exports of tea and coffee fell as a result of problems in those specific markets. Poor port performance, rail delays and high freight charges helped dampen down demand.
Yet if the railway concession process proves a success then Mombasa could record more impressive growth next year. Moreover, the KPA has pledged to increase the handling capacity of the container terminal. A great deal of investment has been made in new cargo-handling equipment in order to reduce turnaround times, but the terminal continues to handle over 300,000 containers a year--well above its official capacity of 250,000 a year, so it is no surprise that delays are commonplace.
Haji Masemo, the KPA public relations officer, said that the Authority planned to convert some general berths, where there is less pressure, into container berths. He added: "The planned changes are part of the Mombasa port container terminal modernisation project that will increase the number of container berths from three to seven. The project will also create an additional exit road to the Mombasa-Nairobi highway." Part of the funding for the terminal overhaul is being provided by the Japan Bank of International Co-operation.
Despite such investment, the lion's share of foreign investment in the Kenyan freight sector will be provided by the Rift Valley Railways Consortium (RVRC), led by South African firm Sheltam, which won the tender for the 25-year concession to manage freight services on the railway from the port of Mombasa westwards to Nairobi and on to Kampala in Uganda.
RVRC is to invest $280m in track improvements and overhauling rail infrastructure, plus another $42m in new rolling stock to boost the freight-carrying capacity of the line and ensure that containers do not pile up at the Mombasa container terminal.
The World Bank's International Development Association (IDA) is providing $70m in partial risk guarantees to support the process in both Kenya and Uganda.
Despite some trade union opposition, many traders have welcomed the rail deal because poor rail services had forced a large proportion of freight onto the roads. Indeed, the proportion of freight entering Uganda by rail has fallen from 50% to less than 10% in just a decade. The head of policy at Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU), Gideon Badagawa, said: "The result has been a sharp increase in highway maintenance costs, traffic congestion and carnage on our roads, as well as high unit costs of transportation.
"The cost of transportation accounts for nearly 40% of total import costs in Uganda compared with the African average of 11% and 8% in Europe. This renders our cross-border trade highly uncompetitive. We expect the cost of doing business to reduce substantially with improved rail efficiency, especially in Uganda"
New links into the interior
Tanzania is to follow suit with a tender to manage its main rail line linking Dar es Salaam with Lake Tanganyika. Goods are transported to and from Burundi, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia via Tanzania's Central Line and the Tanzania Zambia Railway (Tazara), which the Tanzania government also plans to put out for tender, to link with the port of Dar es Salaam. Mombasa plays a similar role further north and it is hoped that improved transport links further north will encourage more Sudanese and Ethiopian goods to pass through Nairobi.
The new Southern Sudanese government hopes to develop a rail line between Juba and Mombasa, while the Ethiopian government hopes that a greatly improved road connection will reduce travel times with Mombasa. Landlocked Ethiopia has been seeking to improve its own port access since the loss of its coastline to Eritrea and Djibouti. Both Mombasa and Somaliland are benefiting from Ethiopian trade. This was a major factor behind new investment at Djibouti.
The latter has been managed by the Dubai Port Authority (DPA), under a 20-year contract since 2000, but a new petroleum import terminal has now been developed 7km away at Dorale in order to serve the Ethiopian market. The $150m facility opened in January, while the road to the Ethiopian border is being improved to allow better access for tankers.
Abdourahman Elmi Ismael, the Djibouti port spokesperson, said: "This project is part of the ongoing effort to modernise the Djibouti port facility. We always want to render the best service to our customers and Ethiopians are our most important customers."
Increased cross-border trade across the eastern African region is triggering greater investment in both port facilities and rail infrastructure. The region's road network is simply inadequate to support the transport of rapidly growing freight volumes, so this new investment is certainly needed. Port facilities are vital to the economic health of eastern Africa, as elsewhere on the continent, so improved container and bulk services must be a positive sign of rising trade volumes.
Bulk storage facilities raise port's status
While the debate over introducing private sector management of the port of Mombasa continues to rage, private companies are already improving facilities at the Kenyan port through carefully targeted investment.
A liquid bulk storage facility was opened at the start of this year, while a dedicated terminal for handling bulk grain imports is being developed. The addition of such services to Mombasa's existing facilities should help the port to compete against increasingly tough competition from the neighbouring port of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.
The Mukwano Group of Uganda opened the $5.5m liquid bulk facility to support its distribution network of chemicals, edible oils and health care products. A total of 19 tanks were installed and the plant can load up to 30 lorries or 12 rail wagons in a single shift via two eight inch dock lines. The company's managing director, Alykhan Karmali, commented: "The opening of the terminal is a milestone for the company and a demonstration of the company's aim of being the region's leading manufacturer of fast moving consumer goods in east and central Africa." Mukwano aims to ensure that Mombasa continues to be the regional hub for liquid bulk storage.
While the Mukwano venture has been developed relatively quickly, the grain terminal took 20 years to construct from its original conception in 1983.
During the 1980s, the level of cargo handling technology employed to deal with grain imports was outdated, so turnaround times were slow, there were high levels of spillage and a great deal of dust was produced. This made the process expensive for both shipping lines and bulk grain importers. Plans were drawn up to construct a more modern facility but financial support was not available at that time.
However, a private Kenyan firm, Grain Bulk Handlers Limited (GBHL), was able to secure sufficient international finance to develop a terminal for handling bulk grain and fertiliser imports at Shimanzi, next to the port of Mombasa. Around $35m in funding was provided by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank, CDC Group of the UK and French organization Proparco, enabling GBHL to begin operations at the start of 2000. Demand from grain importers has been so great that the terminal has not yet handled any fertiliser consignments.
Although East Africa is not traditionally a major wheat-consuming region, the need for a grain-handling facility has grown as tastes have changed. Tanzania and Kenya both now grow wheat but existing producers are unable to satisfy local demand.
In Kenya alone, the production deficit stands at up to 600,000t a year. Grain is discharged from vessels and transferred to either road or rail transport in bulk or bagged form, while the terminal also handles rice, soya beans, barley and malt, which are imported either in containers or bagged.
GBHL also handles large scale grain imports for the UN's World Food Programme (WFP), USAID and other aid agencies when there are food supply emergencies across a wide swathe of eastern Africa, including the Great Lakes, Somalia and southern Sudan.
A spokesperson for the company said: "The Grain Bulk Handlers terminal also provided a platform for relief agencies to increasingly use Mombasa for distribution of regional relief and commodity traders for operation of a hub for their regional trading activities."
Ethiopia is also likely to become an increasingly important customer to GBHL and the port of Mombasa in general as the government in Addis Ababa is seeking to improve transport links with Kenya, in a continuing effort to overcome the loss of its own ports following the secession of Eritrea.
The purchase of new cargo handling equipment has boosted handling capacity to 300t an hour but GBHL has now decided that additional capacity is also required.
In particular, additional long-term storage silos are being introduced to reduce the cost of warehouse storage and then redistribution. Around 100,000t of new capacity will be added by eighteen 5,000t silos and a number of 1,000t star bins. Four phases of 25,000t of new capacity will be developed, with the first due for completion by mid-2006.
A spokesperson for the company explained that there were four main reasons for the additional capacity:
* the need to provide long-term storage in bulk for various clients, as the GBHL terminal only provides transit storage for a specified period
* the need to address the problems of cargo dwell at the terminal associated with poor transport logistics, which frustrated efficient clearance of consignments from the GBHL terminal
* the need to provide facilities to commodity traders to promote ex-silo sales delivered on just in time basis
* the need to provide facilities to relief agencies to stock relief in bulk for rapid response to food emergencies in the region
The company is also restructuring its debt by swapping subordinated debt for $12m in longer term commercial debt, while a stake in the venture has been sold to US-based private equity fund, IFG Emerging Markets Infrastructure Fund LP, which in turn is sponsored by the Infrastructure Funding Group.
It is hoped that the stronger financial base and additional storage capacity will enable the company to respond more flexibly to East African commercial demand and emergency food requirements.
Table 1: Benefits of GBHL grain terminal Beneficiary Benefit Ocean carrier Fast discharge of vessels leading to reduced vessel time in port Ability to use bigger vessels for economies of scale Reduced voyage time and costs for vessels Shipper and importer Following improved ship turnaround times importers are able to negotiate for lower freight charges Fast discharge and elimination of demurrage Delivery and receipt of cargo in prime condition Option of saving bagging costs by taking delivery in bulk. Saving estimated at up to $ 10 per tonne Reduced inventory costs following improvements in vessel scheduling to meet market requirement Reduced insurance cost following major reduction in commodity losses Port of Mombasa Improved status following commissioning of specialised facility for handling bulk grain Potential to recover bulk cargoes diverted to other ports Better utilisation for appointed berth as it turns round high tonnage Potential to penetrate non-traditional hinterland e.g. Ethiopia Potential to attract transhipment traffic, such as for the Indian Ocean Islands and Somalia Recognition as a dispatch rather than demurrage port for bulk grain vessels Kenyan economy Attraction of hard currency lost when shipments, diverted to other ports, return to Mombasa Attraction of hard currency following attraction of transhipment trade Attraction of hard currency from extension of hinterland to non-traditional markets Consumers may reap benefits of a low cost outlay across the board in the reduced price of finished products
Jewels in the African shipping crown
Region by Region
The ports and harbours sector in Southern Africa is in the middle of a period of massive change as a result of two related processes. Growing economic integration within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) means that there are increasing opportunities for ports in Mozambique and Namibia to attract business away from South Africa's established shipping facilities. Partly as a result of this integration, economic growth and rising trade between Southern Africa and the rest of the world is encouraging the development of both new container and dry bulk handling capacity in the region.
South Africa already possesses the two most important ports on the entire African continent: Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) is the most important dry bulk facility and indeed is the biggest coal export port in the world; while Durban Container Terminal (DCT) is the biggest container facility in the Southern Hemisphere. Despite their dominance, both ports are undergoing massive expansion programmes as a result of the lack of capacity that has become apparent over the past two years. In line with other forms of infrastructure, little investment has been put into boosting port capacity since the end of apartheid in 1994 but all that is set to change.
Unlike the other major ports in South Africa, RBCT is not controlled by state-owned South African Port Operations (SAPO) but is owned by the country's main coal exporters. It has therefore been more difficult to provide access to black empowerment enterprises, given that the port's owners already use the facility's entire capacity.
However, a deal has been agreed, whereby the port's handling capacity will be increased from 72m tonnes a year (mt/y) to 92mt/y, in order to provide access to both empowerment firms and additional allocations to the shareholders, Anglo Coal, Eyesizwe, Ingwe, Kangra Coal, Sasol, Total Coal SA and Xstrata Coal.
Half of the new capacity will be provided at the new South Dunes Coal Terminal (SDCT), where empowerment firms will be entitled to export 6mt/y from its completion in 2008. Moreover, empowerment interests have been allocated 4mt/y at the existing terminal since April.
The 10mt/y expansion of the main terminal will be "opened up for subscription to all with an emphasis on empowerment to facilitate the transformation of RBCT, in line with the continuing transformation of South Africa's coal industry under the Mining Charter".
Black empowerment companies can purchase access to the facility at "internationally competitive rates" or they can purchase a stake in RBCT itself.
The chairman of RBCT, Tony Redman, says: "We are excited about the expansion and believe it reflects the spirit of transformation in South Africa. The additional tonnage will be mostly allocated to BEE companies and thereby opens up opportunities for BEE coal mining companies who have not previously been able to export coal.
The extra capacity could bring around R6bn a year (around $990m at current exchange rates) of foreign currency into South Africa and has the potential to earn around R1bn ($165m) for Spoornet. Such infrastructure expansion will help to support the government's objective of 6% GDP growth."
The South African government predicts that South African coal exports will top 116mt/y by 2020.
A similar approach has been adopted at Durban Container Terminal (DCT), where delays to shipping in 2004 forced the government and SAPO to embark on a massive investment programme.
New cargo-handling equipment has been purchased, including straddle carriers from Finnish firm Kalmar, while SAPO has purchased its first ever rubber-tyred gantry carriers for container terminal use. Out of 3,014,236 TEUs handled across the SAPO ports, DCT dealt with a record 1,889,065 TEUs in 2005.
Despite the introduction of new IT systems and other investment aimed at reducing turnaround times, the port is currently stretched to the limit, so Pier 1 is being converted from break bulk operations into a 590,000 TEU container facility.
It had originally been expected that a concession to operate Pier 1 would be offered to private sector bidders. However, the government's has recently tempered its policy of encouraging private sector control of key infrastructure in the face of widespread opposition from the trade unions and it is now likely that any consortium will include SAPO.
The development of Pier 1, plus the new container terminal at Coega and improvements at SAPO's other container facilities, such as Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, are certainly needed. With an economy growing at 5% a year and the volume of traded goods rising even more rapidly, the governments predicts that container traffic will rise by 40% between now and 2011.
Roads, rail links improving
Since 1994, Pretoria has actively sought to boost trade between South Africa and the rest of SADC and has encouraged improvements to cross-border transport links in order to achieve this.
Namibian port operator Namport is attempting to capitalise on this process by encouraging traders in Botswana, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo and even South Africa to transport their imports and exports through Walvis Bay on the Atlantic coast, while Mozambique is replicating this trend on the east coast.
In the past, any gains in shipping times were lost by slower port turnaround times and the slow road journeys from South Africa to other ports in the region. Yet sustained investment in new port facilities in the ports of Maputo, Beira and Nacala in Mozambique is now being accompanied by improved transport links not only with South Africa but also with the other countries of Southern Africa.
The railway lines that connect Beira and Nacala with Zimbabwe and Malawi were severely damaged during Mozambique's long civil war but they have now been rehabilitated and so the two ports are resuming their former role as important entrepots for the wider region.
Maputo, which is managed by the Maputo Port Development Company (MPDC) under a 15-year contract, is particularly well placed to service South African trade, given that it is the closest port to the most important economic centre in Africa, Johannesburg.
Indeed, the opportunities offered by Maputo enticed South African logistics specialist Grindrod to take a 12.24% stake in MPDC in March.
The managing director of Grindrod, Ivan Clark, said: "The Maputo port provides an immediate opportunity for us to participate in the development of a port with a natural hinterland and which is an integral part of Southern Africa's freight system. When one considers that our shipping lines, Unicorn, Island View Shipping and Ocean Africa Container Lines all call on Maputo, it makes strategic sense for us to participate in the port of Maputo."
Indeed, Grindrod's rapid growth over the past two years has been built on a policy of numerous acquisitions in an effort to integrate road, rail and ship transport across Southern Africa.
At the end of March, it purchased Durban-based Cross Country Containers for an undisclosed amount from Maersk Line and has bought controlling stakes in both the Matola and Walvis Bay coal terminals
South Africa undoubtedly continues to dominate the port sector in Southern Africa. RBCT and DCT dwarf anything that Mozambique or Namibia can offer but increased investment in most SADC ports is expected over the next decade.
Yet while some governments would consider this a threat to the established order, Pretoria has welcomed the challenge because it is in line with the South African policy of promoting economic integration.
Coega--birth of a brand new port
The development of the Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ), encompassing the new port of Ngqura, will result in the first new port in South Africa for 30 years.
The last greenfield port project in the country, Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT), has gone on to become the world's biggest coal terminal and a vital cog in the South African economy. Despite some initial teething difficulties, it is hoped that Coega and Ngqura can go on to achieve the same success through the provision of both container and dry bulk facilities.
The Coega project has been envisaged as a major new industrial centre with a state-of-the-art port at its heart. The IDZ will have advanced IT, power, water and transport links and plenty of room for expansion over many years.
It is hoped that most of the companies attracted to the zone will be export-orientated, helping to provide a large number of industrial and manufacturing jobs in a part of the country with a high unemployment rate.
Coega is located almost exactly halfway between Cape Town and Durban and the government believes that it can become a counterbalance to the three cities that traditionally dominate the South African economy--Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.
The government has invested R5bn in the project (current exchange rates are R1/$0.1655), while another R3.2bn has come from the National Ports Authority, R2.2bn from the Coega Development Corporation (CDC), R2.2bn from state power company Eskom and R500m from state rail company Spoornet.
All this investment should provide the basic infrastructure required to kick-start the venture, while the government hopes that private sector investors can contribute a further R16bn.
Ngqura is located in Algoa Bay, close to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. It will be able to serve vessels of up to 80,000t deadweight with a draught of up to 23 metres. Construction work on the deepwater harbour began in September 2002. The $457m first phase of the port development will provide five berths: two for containers, two for dry bulk and one for liquid bulk.
However, the CDC envisages that the IDZ will continue to expand for the next 30 to 50 years, so it is likely that port facilities will also be expanded. As a result, capacity is being added to transport links with the rest of the country. The upgrade of the Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth railway line is being considered to cope with higher freight traffic from Coega, but some road and rail investment has already been committed.
Good omens for aluminium smelter
It had been hoped that an aluminium plant could be developed as Coega's anchor tenant, thereby encouraging other industrial investors to commit themselves to the project. However, the company that had originally signed up to construct the smelter, Pechiney of France, was taken over by Canadian firm Alcan, which was uncertain over whether to proceed. Over the past two years there have been a number of delays, as the government, CDC and the local authority have attempted to persuade Alcan to commit to the scheme.
However, the Canadian company now seems to be close to making a decision. In April, an Alcan spokesperson revealed that the feasibility study was "very close to completion". He added: "Once the feasibility study has been completed, 12 months will be needed for the engineering and financial evaluation to be completed."
One of Alcan's doubts over the viability of the project centred on securing a suitable power supply contract with Eskom, as electricity accounts for about 30% of an aluminium smelter's costs. Although the power company is reputed to offer the cheapest electricity in the world, the company's surplus generating capacity has been run down in recent years and new power plants will take some time to come on-stream.
In addition, a fault at one of the two reactors at the Koeberg nuclear power plant led to some electricity rationing during the first quarter of this year. However, the Alcan spokesperson said: "We are very confident that Eskom will be able to provide a long term, stable, secure supply of energy for the smelter." According to Eskom, the power supply contract is unlikely to be signed before July.
The final environmental impact assessment (EIA) on the smelter is now also approaching completion. Following a meeting between Eastern Cape government officials and Alcan representatives in February, a government spokesperson commented: "Alcan is 100% positive about investing in the city, but the EIA is a critical area in the project and we must not make any mistakes in terms of environmental laws. Before we commission any work on the project all these processes have to be finished." The chief financial officer of the Coega Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), Gert Gouws, says that construction of the $2.7bn aluminium plant could begin as soon as 2007.
Aside from the smelter and any other potential dry bulk exporters, the port of Ngqura will also include a container terminal. The terminal was not central in the original port plans but CDC is now eager to add this as another element to the project, possibly because South Africa's existing container facilities are stretched to the limit.
In addition, improved road and rail links to Coega will enable traders to transport containers from all over Southern Africa to the port.
Series of joint ventures
A joint venture of P & O Nedlloyd and TCI Infrastructure was long expected to sign up to develop the container terminal but talks with South African transport utility Transnet broke down in 2004, so South African Port Operations (SAPO) is currently proceeding alone with the development of the new 520,000 TEU facility.
The chief executive of SAPO, Tau Morwe, says that a private sector partner could be brought on board in the future but construction of the container terminal will not be held up because of negotiations.
It had previously been expected that the terminal would have the capacity to handle about 1m TEU, which would make it the second biggest container terminal in South Africa, but room will be left to enable expansion if this is required in the future.
Although Coega has yet to secure its anchor tenant, other companies have committed themselves. Sander International, which produces fire-resistant materials, became the first IDZ tenant when it moved into Coega in December. Then, in March, the Southern Cross Precision Strip consortium, which comprises Boecker & Wender Stahl (BWS) of Germany (51%), the IDC (26%) and South African firm Columbus Stainless (23%), agreed to set up a stainless steel precision strip facility in the zone. It is hoped that the involvement of BWS will enable Columbus to improve its technology expertise and increase the range of its products.
The consortium's market development commercial manager, Ken Dewar, said: "At present there are no precision strip processors in the country and manufacturers mostly import the material. This is a process that Columbus can't do profitably [alone] and within the standard requirements of the industry." Most of the steel from the R223m factory will be supplied to the South African automotive industry, once the production line has been completed at the end of 2007. Apart from providing high skilled jobs and providing more business for the new port, the venture will also enable South African firm Columbus Stainless to benefit from BWS' technology.
Most of the steel from the R223m factory will be supplied to the South African automotive industry--once the production line has been completed at the end of 2007. Apart from providing high skilled jobs and more business for the new port, the venture will also enable South African firm Columbus Stainless to benefit from BWS' technology.
Other possible ventures include a R2.8bn ($463m) ferronickel smelter, which is the subject of a current feasibility study, while manganese ferroalloy plants are also being considered. Manganese ore is currently exported from nearby Port Elizabeth but the construction of a smelter would enable South Africa to retain the economic benefits of the valuable processing stage.
The construction of a steel rolling mill and an aluminium capacitor factory is being investigated, while optical fibre and polyester recycling facilities have also been proposed.
Although some investors have already signed up to the IDZ, it is vital for the medium term success of the port that more of the possible investors actually put pen to paper to commit themselves. However, given the rise in South African trade and more rapid economic growth, it is likely that the Ngqura port's container and dry bulk capacity will be required with or without the aluminium smelter and a burgeoning IDZ.
Improved rail and road links with the rest of the country will enable traders across South Africa and the wider Southern African region to make use of the new port facilities. Yet for the success of the Coega project as a whole, it is to be hoped that over the next 12 months more large industrial and manufacturing investors agree to set up export-orientated businesses at Coega.
A one-stop shop for W Africa?
While most attention in the port sector in the Gulf of Guinea has concentrated on the expansion and modernisation of existing ports that are used by a variety of traders and shipping lines, Luba Freeport in Equatorial Guinea provides a very different model.
The port is being developed on a new site to serve the growing needs of the country's burgeoning oil industry. Equatorial Guinea's own modest shipping needs are provided by the existing ports of Malabo and Bata, with the latter focusing on exporting forestry and agricultural products. However, the level of investment in Luba is demonstrated by the fact that the companies already active in the port include Amerada Hess, BJ Services, Halliburton and Schlumberger.
Luba, which is located on a 50 hectare site around 40km south-west of Malabo, on the southern coast of Bioko, was selected as the site for the new port because of its natural deepwater harbour, which allows large draught vessels and rigs to enter the port.
It can handle both oil field supply vessels and ocean-going ships as a result of the minimum 10m water depth at the jetty. Much of the infrastructure surrounding the venture is being developed in the form of joint ventures between foreign oil sector investors and the government or state-owned interests.
The port project itself is being developed by a joint venture of Luba Freeport Limited. It was announced in May that Lonrho Africa plc had acquired 67% of the shares in the company, with the remaining equity held by the government through state-owned oil company GEPetrol.
The company was awarded a 25-year contract to operate the port as an "Autonomous Free Zone for the import/export of materials to and from Equatorial Guinea, and transit cargo for other destinations outwith the Republic". According to Luba Freeport's director and general manager, Howard McDowall, a new shareholder in the project will be announced very soon, "bringing approximately $100m of investment to the project".
Development of the port began in January 2000 on reclaimed land. Construction work on the oil services centre began in September 2002 and phase 1 of the project was completed in March 2003, providing a dedicated oil services logistics facility, while the first vessel was serviced in April 2003.
As Equatorial Guinea's first free port, Luba has its own customs and immigration facilities and operates as an autonomous duty free zone, although at present the free zone is reserved for oil industry-related activities.
Work on phase 2 of the project began in August 2003 and is scheduled to be complete by the end of this year. However, some strands of the second phase have already been brought on stream, including Schlumberger's drilling cement supply facility, which has been up and running since December 2004.
In addition, fuel is now supplied at Luba by a joint venture of GEPetrol and the Swiss firm Tacoma. The first phase of the fuel bunkering facilities was completed in May 2005 and fuel is now available around the clock. Construction of ExxonMobil's storage facilities should be complete by October this year, just 17 months after it began.
When completed, the new port complex will encompass a 110m by 20m quay, oil storage and bunkering facilities; fabrication, rig and ship repair operations; an oilfield logistics base; and cargo storage.
Serviced offices, accommodation and warehousing is offered on site, which may be convenient for shipping lines and oil companies, but which could prevent the creation of linkages with the rest of the Equatoguinean economy.
The project should contribute to national GDP and enable the country to gain more from its oil wealth than purely oil export revenues.
Luba Freeport's commitment to job creation, training and boosting the local economy will benefit the bulk of the population.
Table 1: Luba Freeport second phase development plans Under the terms of the concession, the joint venture has agreed to: rehabilitate the oil port quay and infrastructure from 2005 provide a further 340 metres of quay, with berthing for vessels up to 12 metres draft construct tool and service shops for Weatherford, Cameron and Schlumberger set up fabrication, ship and rig repair facilities for Integrated Petroleum Services develop cargo storage and hub distribution facilities for Safmarine, plus an interim storage area for Petronas, with an option for a future supply base development provide fuel storage and distribution via the Luba Oil Terminal examine the possibility of providing other support services, such as ships' chandlers, waste management and disposal
Namport's ambitious vision
Although trade between South Africa and Asia is rising, imports from and exports to North America and Western Europe remain central to the South African economy. Namibian port operator Namport is therefore trying to market its Walvis Bay port as the best option for trade with the North Atlantic Basin because it cuts up to four days off sailing times in comparison with Durban or Cape Town.
By improving land transport links with both South Africa and the landlocked states of Southern Africa, it is hoped that Walvis Bay--which was South African sovereign territory until 1994--can make the most of its strategic location. As one of Africa's youngest independent countries, Namibia is still seeking to establish its economic and infrastructural base. The country has been remarkably stable politically and economically since independence but the government is now seeking to make the most of its location next to South Africa without being overshadowed by its powerful neighbour.
The most recent strand in the national policy has been to establish the port of Walvis Bay as a regional hub for the entire Southern African region.
Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG) has been set up to co-ordinate the work of logistics companies and traders in promoting the port. Alongside Namport, it aims to develop the port "to provide dedicated facilities for a range of commodities including containerised cargo, refrigerated cargo, break bulk, dry bulks and petroleum products" and to provide "specialised facilities such as a modern container terminal, two privately-operated bulk terminals, a tanker jetty and a cold storage facility".
It is hoped that new investment will reduce turnaround times by improving logistical support at Walvis Bay. To date, improvements to the Namibian port have included an IT upgrade, deepening three of the eight berths to 12.8 metres and improvements to the approach channel, while the purchase of new cranes has reduced offloading times by 60%. Walvis Bay currently has storage space for just 380 containers but Jerome Mouton, Namport's marketing and strategic business development manager says that another 100 ground slots will be added.
The port handled 71,456 TEUs in financial year 2004-05, up from just 24,859 TEUs in 1999-2000. However, with handling capacity of 250,000 TEUs, there is certainly plenty of room for greater use. The port handled 1,000 vessels and 2.5mt of cargo last year and these figures too are expected to rise.
Direct shipping services to Europe are already in place, in addition to feeder services to South African ports. However, it is improved transport links with the rest of the Southern Africa that will really make the difference. The table highlights the Namibian strategy of tying major land transport improvements to the port modernisation.
Symbolic significance for region
The construction of the Sesheke Bridge over the River Zambezi has already slashed travel times between the port and Zambia, enabling Walvis Bay to handle its first rice consignment for Zambia last September. The 3,000t delivery was of limited value in its own right but its transport was of great symbolic significance to Southern African integration. WBCG has already set up an office in Lusaka to promote the port as an option to Zambian traders and the organisation is particularly keen to attract copper exports from Zambia and the DR Congo.
One of WBCG's greatest successes to date was in signing a deal with Grindrod, the rapidly growing South African shipping and logistics firm. Grindrod has begun to expand its operations across Southern Africa over the past two years and it has now agreed to develop transport links between Walvis Bay and South Africa via the Trans Kalahari Transport Corridor.
John Jones, the executive director of Grindrod, said: "This corridor will offer importers and exporters in Gauteng and Botswana an alternative port to that of Durban, specifically for cargo moving to or from Europe and the Americas. In order to offer a complete supply chain solution to customers, Grindrod will harness the services of shipping lines, Namport, TransNamib, road haulers and clearing and forwarding agents, managing the movement of cargo between the port in Walvis Bay and the final destination in Botswana or Gauteng."
Namport and WBCG's efforts to turn Walvis Bay into a gateway port for the entire region are certainly to be lauded. At present, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is perceived as a South Africa-dominated organisation that includes various satellite states. Angolan oil and gas exports aside, efforts to boost trade, growth and employment generally focus on trade with South Africa.
So while WBCG's desire to encourage South African traders to use the port will generate some income, it is vital that trade between the other SADC states is promoted as widely as possible.
Walvis Bay port:
* strategically located halfway down the Namibian coast with direct access to principle shipping routes
* the harbour will be developed as a regional hub port for central and southern Africa
* to act as a fully commercialised entity offering high standards of cargo-handling efficiency
Table 1: Namibian transport infrastructure improvements Trans Kalahari Highway * will link Walvis Bay with Gaborone in Botswana and the industrial heartland of South Africa, Gauteng, via surfaced roads. The transit time to Gauteng will be reduced to 48 hours * will reduce the previous travel distance from Windhoek to Gauteng of 1800 km via the southern border post of Ariamsvelei by 400 km. In conjunction with the Maputo Corridor from the Mozambican capital Maputo, it will provide a transcontinental link offering freight forwarders a range of options depending on the overseas destination * it will be supported by a rail line from Walvis Bay to Gobabis and Grootfontein in northern Namibia with transhipment facilities at both Windhoek and Gobabis Trans Caprivi Highway * will link landlocked Zambia, Zimbabwe and southern Democratic Republic of Congo with the port of Walvis Bay. Trans Cunene Highway * will connect southern Angola with Walvis Bay via road and rail links via the Oshikango and Santa Clara border posts The Southern Extension * will improve roads through the traditional southern corridor via Keetmanshoop to northern and western provinces of South Africa; * access to the southern Namibian port of Luederitz is being provided by rail and road
Dar es Salaam
Management goes private
The Tanzanian government has decided to build on the successful private sector management of Dar es Salaam container terminal by offering a concession to operate the port's general cargo facility.
Although the government has delayed several privatisation processes and indeed has brought some water and waste water services back under public control, it appears convinced that private is better than public in the port sector.
President Jakaya Kikwete seems to be maintaining the same policies of steady economic reform as his predecessors. Long-term contracts are to be put out to tender for the management of the country's main rail services, including the Central Line to Kigoma on Lake Tanganyika and possibly also the much more modern Tanzania Zambia Railway (TAZARA) line to Zambia, while the country's most important port assets are also being turned over to private sector management.
Although Tanzania does possess other ports of note, such as Tanga, Mtwara and Lindi, Dar es Salaam is by far the most important port in the country. While the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) is likely to retain control of the smaller coastal ports, it is loosening its grip on the most important harbour. Tanzania International Container Terminal Services (TICTS), which is a joint venture of global ports operator Hutchinson Port Holdings and local company Vertex Financial Services Ltd, was awarded a ten-year contract to manage the container terminal in 2000. New investment in cargo handling equipment and a more commercial approach have improved efficiency by reducing both turnaround and document processing times.
In May, the government body in charge of the divestiture of state-owned assets, the Presidential Parastatal Sector Reform Commission (PSRC), announced that a long-term contract would now be offered for the management of Dar es Salaam's general cargo terminals. The actual terminal will remain the property of the state, through the TPA. Although no details of interested parties have yet been released, it is understood that the PSRC hopes to award a contract to an international company that already operates port facilities elsewhere in the world.
The terminal has seven berths of 185 metres length and depth alongside of between nine and 12 metres, which enables large vessels to use the facility. There are various warehouses, outdoor storage areas and a grain silo but the selected concessionaire is expected to improve the storage facilities on offer. A conveyor belt will be installed to transport grain to and from the silo, while the TPA's plans for developing a bulk unloading facility are also expected to be put into practice.
The TPA was created in 2004 out of the Tanzania Harbours Authority (THA) as a result of new port legislation. The new organisation has taken on the role of port landlord, overseeing the work of private sector operators, and maintaining port infrastructure such as road and rail connections, plus power and water supplies. It is also responsible for port security and strategic management of the port sector as a whole.
No detailed timetable for the tender process has yet been released but the new operator should have been selected by the PSRC and be in place by the end of next year. Reports in the Tanzanian press indicate that the chosen port company will have to pay an annual lease of $3,680,000 for control of the terminal, plus royalties based on the number of ships that call. Although the TPA is losing direct control of some port terminals, it has taken over the management of all of Tanzania's inland ports on the Great Lakes. Until last year, Itungi, Liuli, Manda and Mbaba Bay on Lake Nyasa; Lake Tanganyika's Kasanga and Kigoma; and the Lake Victoria ports of Bukoba, Kemondo, Mwanza, Musoma and Nansio were managed by Marine Services Company Ltd (MSCL).
The latter is a subsidiary of Tanzania Railways Corporation (TRC), but given that the state-owned railway company is to lose control of the country's main railways, it was felt that a specialist port operator should take control of the lake ports, which were unlikely to attract the attention of private sector investors.
The government has given the TPA the go ahead to invest in port infrastructure; and operations on Mwanza and Musoma, in particular, are likely to be improved to ease trade on Lake Victoria between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
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|Date:||Jun 1, 2006|
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