In a surprise move, the government of Cameroon has awarded a 25-year concession to operate the new Kribi Container Terminal to a consortium of French companies CMA CGM and Bolloré as well as China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC).
This was unexpected because, in April 2015, the government removed this consortium from a shortlist of operators considered to manage the terminal, after advice from a government commission set up to recommend an operator.
According to Reuters, the report said: “The commission accepted the offers of International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) and APM Terminals (APMT) as being the most advantageous for Cameroon and the central African sub-region.”
Bolloré operates Cameroon’s other main port, Douala, and it was believed that the government wanted to avoid giving one company so much control of key infrastructure.
The costs of the construction of Kribi port were 85% funded by China’s EXIM bank, with the remainder paid for by Cameroon. CHEC were chosen to conduct the construction of the port.
The two companies which were on the shortlist to operate the terminal were ICTSI and APMT.
In July 2015, APMT’s vice-president for business development Francois-Xavier Delenclos told CM that although Cameroon is a small country with insufficient infrastructure, APMT sees a lot of potential in it.
The government’s aim in developing the Port of Kribi is to remove the bottleneck at Douala, a congested city of 2m people, by moving traffic 100 km south to Kribi.
In July, Delenclos said that his experience of similar projects worldwide had taught him that there is no guarantee that customers will quickly switch from the old, congested port to the new one. Nevertheless, he said that this would eventually happen, albeit after being slowed by inertia.
Douala has a limited draught which stops it handling the growing number of big ships calling in West Africa but the area is also where most of the country’s industry is presently situated.
After its completion, the 1.4m teu capacity container terminal will be able to host vessels of up to 8,000 teu in capacity.
The terminal will be composed of a 700 m long wharf and a 32 ha platform made for 16 m draught, with a first 350 m long wharf operational within a few months.
As well as Cameroon, the terminal will aim to serve landlocked nations such as Chad and the Central African Republic and the port hopes to become a regional hub for Africa’s West Coast, from Senegal to Gabon.
Roads are being built from Kribi to Edea and Yaounde and a railway connection is being discussed.
South Cameroon exports a lot of agricultural products, wood and ores.