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Lobito offering gateway to development

Article - August 1, 2014
The Port of Lobito invests to recover its position as Southern Africa’s natural Atlantic logistics platform
MR. ANAPAZ DE JESUS NETO, CHAIRMAN OF THE EVER-EXPANDING PORT OF LOBITO
The Port of Lobito possesses one of Africa’s finest natural harbors, protected by a 5km long sandspit.

Its geographical position makes it the natural outlet to the sea and to world markets for the rich mineral wealth of Southern and South-Central Africa, including copper and cobalt from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and cobalt from Zambia, countries which are its natural hinterland and which are linked to the port by the Benguela Railway.

Angola is now aiming to sensibly invest income from its booming oil and gas wealth so as to diversify its economy, both in terms of sectors and geographically, with the Port of Lobito set to be one of the key drivers of regional development.

The long civil war in Angola and unrest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo affected Lobito severely, with the crucial rail link cut and road connections to the rest of the country disrupted.

THERE IS A PUSH FOR MORE MANUFACTURING IN ANGOLA, LIBERALIZED EXPORTS, AND MORE SALES TO CONSUMERS. IF THE SUCCESS OF SOME FOREIGN INVESTORS IS ANY INDICATION, THESE ARE HAVING AN EFFECT.

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ANGOLA IS NOW AIMING TO SENSIBLY INVEST INCOME FROM ITS BOOMING OIL AND GAS WEALTH SO AS TO DIVERSIFY ITS ECONOMY, BOTH IN TERMS OF SECTORS AND GEOGRAPHICALLY, WITH THE PORT OF LOBITO SET TO BE ONE OF THE KEY DRIVERS OF REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT.
Reconstruction of the port started in 2008 with a phased program of investments, the first being the rehabilitation of the existing facilities. An ambitious expansion of the port’s business scope followed, including a new container terminal, a new dry port and a new mineral ore terminal. Pier extensions and a new bridge were also part of a comprehensive plan to regenerate Lobito and its hinterland through the creation of the Lobito Corridor as an essential element of the infrastructure necessary for sustained regional revitalization.

Anapaz de Jesus Neto, Chairman of the Port of Lobito, is keen to emphasize this role, saying that, “the port is of the utmost importance because, in addition to its geo-location, it is a natural deep-water port and undoubtedly a hub for both incoming and outgoing goods, served by a railway line that extends over 800 miles into Congo and then on to Zambia”. For Mr. Neto, the port is truly “the doorway to the southern part of Africa”.

The opportunity to re-establish Lobito’s key role in shipping minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and from Zambia is undoubtedly very real. The World Bank is providing about $280 million to rehabilitate the railway on the Congolese side of the border, while tenders for equipment and materials are already out and private sector participation is being discussed.

Mr. Jean-Marie Dikanga, the Infrastructure Minister for the DRC’s Katanga Province, confirms that both countries are keen to push ahead with the work, saying that “On the Angolan side, everything is in place. On the Congolese side, there are still some small problems”.

The port itself also has an ambitious capital investment program. New multipurpose cranes, a wheeled crane and a rail crane having already been acquired, bringing the port’s handling capacity to 11 million tonnes of general cargo and 700,000 TEU’s annually with a mooring capacity for twelve vessels simultaneously.

These investments in the port infrastructure are complemented by a wider national strategy to link the different sectors of transport and logistics to create an effective intermodal system, an interface between sea, land and air facilities. Mr. Neto explains, “A development simultaneous with the growth and modernization of the port, the railways and the construction of the airport, together making for an integrated system”.

Mr. Neto is, however, clear that capital investment is not by itself sufficient to achieve his aim of “seeing the port as one of the best in Africa, alongside Durban, Dar-es-Salaam and Maputo”. He insists on the importance of the human contribution in this, stressing that “we are focused on our human resources and determined to improve our workers’ know-how, something not consisting only of on-the-job training but also in sending staff overseas to countries such as China, Portugal and Brazil”.

Among the areas of training that the port is concentrating on are the technical areas of the job, such as the greater application of information technology to the port operations. Mr. Neto recognizes that this is one of the areas where the United States could help Angola and the Port of Lobito tremendously, adding that “technology is something we take very seriously, we have invested a lot to modernize our equipment, to improve the quality, productivity and efficiency of our operations and to prepare ourselves for the further business growth we foresee”. He adds that this, together with the capital investment program, means the port is “ready for the big developments ahead of us.”

INVESTMENTS IN THE PORT ARE COMPLEMENTED BY A WIDER NATIONAL STRATEGY TO LINK THE DIFFERENT SECTORS OF TRANSPORT AND LOGISTICS
The ambitions of the port are not restricted to handling containers and cargo. Mr. Neto notes the growth in the numbers of cruise liners visiting Lobito, with six docking there in 2013.

Within the port’s strategic plan is the construction of a cruise-liner terminal, although other, complementary infrastructure in the port and city would also be needed. Nevertheless, Mr. Neto says the port is aiming to complete the terminal by 2017.

The Port of Lobito has a clear vision, one of investing in equipment, infrastructure, people and commercial relationships to help capitalize on its outstanding natural geographical advantages.

This will help contribute not only to the continuation of Angola’s phenomenal economic growth but also develop the Lobito Corridor so that neighboring, landlocked countries can get their mineral resources to the world market cheaper and easier.

Angola and its neighbors will not be the only ones to reap the benefits, with the port’s vision helping generate increased development and greater prosperity across the whole region.

When asked about his vision, Mr. Neto says, “my dream is to see the three terminals completed together with the Benguela railway up and running by 2016, to see trains running as far as Zambia, the operation of the dry port, the container terminal, the mineral ore terminal, not to mention that I’d even like to see the cruise-liner terminal operating.”

He adds, simply and succinctly that “we want to position the Port of Lobito as one of the best in Africa and as a reference in the region”.

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