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Olam’s Port Ambitions

Olam’s Port Ambitions

On 14 October, Gabon Special Economic Zone (GSEZ) inaugurated the New Owendo International Port (NOIP) in the presence of President Ali Bongo Ondimba. On this occasion, Cyrille Bolloré announced that a subcontracting agreement has been signed between Société des conteneurs et de transit du Gabon (Gabon Container and Transit Company, SCTG) and Olam International Ltd, bringing several months of controversy to an end.

Photo: Art Vision System

It was with some pomp that the new Owendo terminal was inaugurated in front of a large crowd after dark at the Port. Present at the celebrations were the President of Gabon and his wife, representatives of the Chief of Staff, the President of Olam Gabon, Cyrille Bolloré – Chairman of Bolloré Transport & Logistics (BTL), the main project partners and other special guests. An aerial ballet performed by trapeze artists suspended from a site crane and spectacular fireworks marked the ceremony.

Alongside NOIP, Olam has reconstructed Gabon’s infrastructure and reduced congestion at the port for the sum of USD 300 million in “a record time of 18 months”, as Gagan Gupta reiterated during the inauguration ceremony. This initiative has enabled the Singaporean group to use its own port facilities for its import-export operations connected to running and developing the Nkok Economic Zone that it manages. Between 2011 and 2015, Olam’s sales volume increased twentyfold, rising from 71,000 tonnes to 1.53 million tonnes of palm oil.

The project is the result of a Public Private Partnership (PPP) between Olam International Ltd, Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) and the Gabonese State. Gagan Gupta highlighted that this project represented a “direct investment with no State debt.”

Operational since June, the objective of the port is to facilitate imports and exports by reducing stevedoring costs by 30%. «This is more than a diversification strategy, rather it provides us with a logistics tool to make our exports more secure» specified Philippe Gery, Director of GSEZ Ports.

Photo: Art Vision System

NOIP: A PORT THAT MEETS INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS

 

NOIP manages four main activities: container handling, solid and liquid bulk cargo, conventional merchandise and logistics services. The latter include transportation using lorries, container groupage and degroupage, customs clearance and freight forwarding. With a surface area of 18 hectares, the terminal has an annual capacity of 3 million tonnes. It is equipped with four rubber tyred gantry (RTG) cranes, seven tankers with a total capacity of 10,500 tonnes for storing crude palm oil (CPO), two grain silos with a capacity of 10,000 tonnes and two other 5,000-tonne silos currently being built. In addition, NOIP also has four cranes for loading and unloading vessels, two of which are mobile, and 18 tugs. Finally, the port has a new long quay measuring 420 metres in length and 13 metres deep, with two docking positions for Panamax container ships. “Our container storage site is located just behind the quay and no longer 1.2 km away, which reduces costs considerably. We can now store four times more containers per hectare per year” explains Philippe Gery.

A 270-metre quay extension is currently under construction. Gagan Gupta is pleased with this development: “Our gamble has paid off: the gamble of creating a port that matches up to international standards.” The port is now more modern with greater capacities than those previously proposed by SCTG. In particular, two vessels can now dock at the same time. With an annual capacity of 180,000 containers, it exceeds Gabon’s overall capacities which today stand at 130,000 containers. In addition, the port area of GSEZ’s cargo port has the largest fleet of lorries in Gabon (80 vehicles and 245 tugs) as well as a fleet of hoisting machines, hangars, a one-stop shop, a shipping agency and a petrol station.

Photo: Art Vision System

BOLLORE TAKES OVER CONTAINER MANAGEMENT

The subcontracting agreement signed between Olam and Bolloré for container management seems to mark the end of the disagreements between the Gabonese State and the French group. While Olam invested almost USD 300 million in the construction of the terminal, the giant Bolloré, a specialist in port logistics, took over container management: “We are bringing our expertise to managing 300 metres of quays” stated Cyrille Bolloré, Chairman of Bolloré Transport & Logistics (BTL), during the port inauguration ceremony. The management of the quay will therefore be divided between Olan (420 m) and Bolloré (300 m). It is therefore with the aim of optimising this multi-purpose port that STCG, which already owns the pre-existing container terminal, is becoming the operator of NOIP’s container activities while GSEZ remains in charge of conventional merchandise and solid and liquid bulk cargo, while also providing logistics services.

The President of Gabon has not shied away from expressing his happiness at inaugurating a modern port with increased capacity: “It is a dream come true. Léon Mba dreamed of it, Omar Bongo did it and we modernised it! […] This is an historic day for a project full of symbolism,” he declared, going on to specify: “I promised to be an innovative, reformer president and the Port of Owendo is the proof.  […] the port represents a door to Central Africa.” He also stated that NOIP is a veritable “instrument in the fight against high costs of living.” The President rounded off by profusely thanking Cyrille Bolloré, the “historic partner who has been able to adapt to what was needed […] My first outing after the elections of 2009 was to this port with your father, and today you are ensuring continuity.” The Head of State also paid homage to Olam’s performance, concluding “You have got us accustomed to miracles and, as Omar Bongo said, the more they give me, the more I want.”

Photo: Art Vision System

By Marie-France Réveillard

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Written by African Business Magazine

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