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How the biggest port in West Africa, the Port of Abidjan, is being consolidated

Article - February 14, 2014
Called ‘the lung of the Ivoirian economy’, the Port Autonome d’Abidjan (PAA) handles 70 per cent of the traffic to and from neighbouring countries
The importance of PAA to the Ivoirian economy is based on different factors. The total traffic of the port amounted to 21.7 million tonnes in 2012, making PAA the leading port of West Africa and the second in container traffic after the port of Tema in Ghana. In addition, the vessel stopovers for 2012 witnessed an increase of 28 per cent compared to the previous year. Similarly, the goods traffic in the same period recorded a sharp increase of 30.5 per cent compared to the previous year. The largest component of this data is the increase in traffic of petroleum products.

This remarkable growth is attributed to both imports and exports. Despite reduced shipments of cocoa beans, the main export product of Côte d’Ivoire, general exports experienced an exceptional growth of 65.4 per cent. PAA is the main transit port of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, processing more than 1 million tonnes in goods traffic. 
“We can say that these strengths of the port of Abidjan make it one of the highest performing and most capable of the sub-region,” says CEO Hien Sié. 
It even has a privileged geographical location in the Gulf of Guinea. The port occupies a prominent place in Côte d’Ivoire’s chain of economic production since it houses more than 60 per cent of industrial enterprises in the country. 
“We represent 91 per cent of the external trade of Côte d’Ivoire, more than 85 per cent of the customs revenue of the state and nearly 54,000 direct and indirect jobs. New infrastructure will be put in place in our port expansion programme. We want to broaden and deepen the entry passage of the Vridi Canal in order to be able to handle vessels of more than 250 metres and a draft of 16 metres,” shares Mr Sié. 

“We represent 91 per cent of the external trade of Côte d’Ivoire, more than 85 per cent of the customs revenue of the state and nearly 54,000 direct and indirect jobs”

Hien Sié, CEO of the Autonomous
Port of Abidjan
A second container terminal will be built to significantly increase the container traffic. In addition, the fishing port will be modernised to accommodate all types of fishing vessels and create new spaces to enable the fishing industry.
“We are very proud of our system of security and safety. We secured the handling shipyards and experienced safety training in the 16 port facilities,” states the CEO. “In terms of safety, we will continue to fight against piracy. The European Union provides West African operators the assistance and training to be better prepared in the fight against piracy. We also have the support of the state with a maritime surveillance mission carried out by the national navy.

“In terms of security, it is important to mention that we have also contracted a private company to invest, secure and monitor the port and the lagoon, all while making plans for automated access and surveillance camera installations. Finally, in terms of quality, PAA is certified ISO 9001 for vessel reception since 2010.”

Mr Sié adds, “Our projects will, no doubt, boost the competitiveness of the port by reducing the incoming loads and handling times, which is 12 to 24 hours on average. In 2012, the Bolloré Group announced a €60 million investment to double the capacity of the container terminal to 1.5 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units). Since signing the agreement with Bolloré in August 2013 for the new terminal, we have finished our work on the Vridi Canal and the second terminal. An additional year has been granted to the operator to install the equipment in the new terminal.”
The France-based Bolloré Group has a 15-year contract on the container terminal, obtained in 2004.