Drawing lines in the water
Some flourishing African markets have prompted shippers and shipping lines to show a greater interest in doing business there. They include CMA CGM, Arkas and Bolloré, with the latter improving its terminal network, together with Chinese partners.
West Africa is one of the rather dynamic regions of the continent, where growing demand from local consumers is resulting in increasing imports. The Marseille-based shipping line CMA CGM has reacted to these developments in its latest route planning exercise, and adjusted the sailing of its WAX 2 service – in addition to four existing services connecting Asia and West Africa. The WAX 2 was reactivated on 31 July, with a second loop for Nigeria.
The vessels with a 4,250 teu capacity deployed in the WAX 2 will call at the Nigerian ports of Tincan Lagos and Apapa, and will be able to offer customers faster transit times, as they do not call in South Africa. Demand from markets in Benin and Niger is also expected to contribute to business. Services from Nansha are expected to arrive at Tincan Lagos after 33 days at sea, and at Apapa after 31 days. Sailings to Apapa will arrive from Singapore after 27 days, from Laem Chabang and Jakarta after 30 days and from Guangdong after 35 days. The WAX 2’s port rotation starts in Nansha and continues to Singapore, Apapa, Tincan Lagos and Cotonou before returning to Singapore and Nansha.
In addition to this option the French line has also added the Black Sea Med Express to its network, which plies its trade on the routes between the Black Sea, Turkey, Algeria and Morocco. The weekly connection will first set sail from Malta on 21 August. Four 1,700 teu vessels will be deployed in the link, whose route covers Casablanca, Tangier, Malta, Odessa, Constantza, Ambarli, Izmir, Malta and Annaba.
Arkas following suit
Turkey’s Arkas Group has felt the same strong winds billowing its sails and is thus also fortifying its sailings to and from West Africa. On the one hand the line is augmenting the capacities it has on offer there, and on the other it is increasing its port coverage. To this end it has entered into vessel-sharing agreements (VSAs) with various partners.
Arkas has acted on two fronts in this regard. Firstly it has upgraded its Europe Africa service (EAS) through a new VSA with the Hamburg-based shipping line Hapag-Lloyd. The two lines have already cooperated together since December 2015, sometimes in slot-sharing agreements and also in operations. The new developments as well as the need for additional capacities have prompted Arkas to take additional responsibilities as the operator of one of the ships deployed.
The port rotation begins in Antwerp and after a call at Hamburg continues to Tangier, Casablanca, Dakar, Tema and Abidjan before returning to Tangier and Antwerp. Arkas Line provides one of the five vessels in the service, namely the Vivien A, which has the capacity to carry 2,478 teu. It will sail from Antwerp on 4 September.
New options on the horizon
Arkas’ West Africa service (WAS) is simultaneously also being adjusted. Besides extra capacities it will also serve a new port rotation, which is based on a new VSA with Hapag-Lloyd and CMA CGM. The connection will call at Tangier, Algeciras, Cotonou, Apapa, Tincan Lagos and Tema before returning to Tangier. From 25 August onwards Arkas Line will operate one of the four WAS vessels. It has yet to be named and will be able to carry 4,250 teu.
Apapa has thus returned to the schedule after a one-year hiatus, whilst the call at Cotonou is the first in the company’s history. Arkas hopes to use its strong feeder network via Tangier to relay Mediterranean and Black Sea cargo to its new WAS as well as EAS options.
Cameroonian terminal now operative
A new multi-party consortium has been formed in Cameroon, with the objective of jointly running a container terminal there. CMA CGM, Bolloré Transport & Logistics and China Harbor Engineering have come together to manage a 25-year concession in Kribi, at the mouth of the river Kienké on the Gulf of Guinea in the south of the country. The state has also secured a voice in the project, however, as the Sino-French consortium will operate the new port in the framework of a public-private partnership with the Cameroonian state.
The facility’s technical equipment has to be sorted out first, however. The gantry and portal cranes of the centre, which has been built straight from the drawing board, have first to be prepared for operational service over the next few weeks. The terminal is scheduled to commence its business activities soon.
Kribi: equipment and the hinterland
The new Kribi container terminal, on the coast in the south of the West African country, will help to relieve the neighbouring port of Douala, in the nation’s largest city. It will also provide direct access to Edéa, the capital of the district located approximately 100 km to the north. Connections to landlocked Chad and the Central African Republic represent further potential opportunities for the new terminal.
The technical plans for the facility are ambitious and bank on a future that is expected to be dominated by huge freighters. At the moment Kribi, which has a 350 m quay which sports a depth of water alongside of 16 m, can handle vessels that can load up to 8,000 teu.
A second phase, for which the detailed schedule has not been set yet, will see the addition of another berth to the terminal; this one will be 715 m long. This will allow the gateway to handle vessels with capacities of up to 11,000 teu. Thus the entire port area will offer an annual capacity of up to 1.3 million teu then – provided demand and the utilisation rates play along.