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Ivory Coast port expansion seals country's position as commercial hub

Major expansion work is underway on the Port of Abidjan to seal its position as one of West Africa's leading commercial hubs.

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Ivory Coast port expansion seals country's position as commercial hub

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The port of Abidjan is preparing to welcome the growth in maritime traffic. Work is underway to expand and modernize the economic lung of Ivory Coast.

Point of view

People come back because the port of Abidjan is good value.

Hien Yacouba Sié CEO, Autonomous Port of Abidjan

In this edition of Target, we take you behind the scenes for a look at the renovation work underway in one of West Africa’s leading commercial ports.

Abidjan: a regional hub

Most of the country’s trade goes through the port of Abidjan, which generates more than 80 percent of its customs revenue.

Built in 1950, the port is suffering from congestion. Major extension work was launched two years ago to alleviate this.

Among the busiest in sub-Saharan Africa, the port serves Ivory Coast and the rest of the region: it is a gateway for landlocked nations like Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. And traffic is growing. Every year more than 20 million tons of goods transit through the port. That is set to grow after work is completed to widen and deepen the Vridi channel leading to the main port.

Work is also underway to build a second container terminal to increase the port’s cargo capacity. The goal is to be able to host larger, new generation vessels, regardless of their size.

Hien Yacouba Sié is the CEO of the Autonomous Port of Abidjan: “Here at the port of Abidjan, we can accomodate vessels with a draft of up to 11,5 metres, that is to say no more than 3.500 containers,” he tells us. “When the project will be completed, the port of Abidjan will be able to accommodate ships carrying 14.000 containers.”

China leads the building work

The new terminal will spread over land gained on the lagoon. The project is in the hands of a Chinese group, the China Harbor Engineering Company. Huge concrete blocks are built on site that will make up the wharf. We visit the building site with Deputy Project Manager Zhibin Zhang.

“We’ll transport these blocks to the port by boat, and we’ll align them to build the quay line,” he tells us. “Our project is huge, we’re using about 50 vessels for the construction work, they’re travelling in all directions, so our biggest challenge is to ensure traffic is safe between our boats and those using the port of Abidjan.”

Abidjan: “good value”

The project is scheduled for completion in August 2019. More than half of the work is already done. The cost is estimated at cost just over one billion euros – a necessary investment according to authorities.

“Originally, the port of Abidjan was meant to be for the whole region. Ivory Coast’s dynamic economy helps justify this role,” says Hien Yacouba Sié. “After our country’s crisis in 2000, other ports like Lome, Tema and Cotonou took over, but business is returning. People come back because the port of Abidjan is good value.”

Once the work is completed, it’s hoped the Autonomous Port of Abidjan will confirm its position both as the economic lung of Ivory Coast as and as a leading hub in West Africa.