The ports of Antwerp and Douala in Cameroon are to collaborate closely with each other over the next five years. The collaboration agreement was signed on Wednesday this week during an extensive visit by Antwerp port representatives to the port of Douala in Cameroon.
Douala port authority is counting on the Antwerp know-how in order to boost the efficiency of its port operations, among other things. For Antwerp the agreement represents a way to maintain and further strengthen its position as market leader in West and Central Africa.
The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Cyrus Ngo’o, CEO of the Port Autonome de Douala,and by Marc Van Peel and Kristof Waterschoot, respectively chairman and managing director of APEC and PAI, the two subsidiaries of Antwerp Port Authority that are responsible for among other things training maritime professionals and for consultancy tasks in foreign ports.
Also this week, Antwerp Port Authority is organising a roadshow in Cameroon with an extensive delegation from the Antwerp port community. This is only the second time that the port has held a roadshow in Africa, and it is no accident that this time the choice has fallen upon Cameroon.
"With its exports of freight items such as timber and cacao, Cameroon has huge potential in Antwerp, which already has players active in these segments," declared port alderman Marc Van Peel. "Moreover the port has a good balance between imports and exports, which is also a distinguishing feature of Antwerp," he added.
Antwerp handles an annual volume of 15 million tonnes of West African freight. At the other end of the trade, international studies have showed that the volume of containers handled in West African ports has grown enormously since 2009.
"The same studies show that these ports are liable to have considerable further growth in container trade in the immediate future," the alderman added. "Antwerp offers the greatest number of direct shipping services to West Africa, making it the ideal gateway to Europe for this trade," he concluded.
Antwerp may well be busy with its second roadshow in this region, but the port has long been active in West Africa. Last week Antwerp Port Authority also signed a collaboration agreement with the port of Dakar in Senegal, and a few months ago the port of Cotonou in Benin decided to contract out its port operation to Port of Antwerp International (PAI) with a view to further modernisation.
Finally, consultants from PAI and APEC have been busy in the port of Conakry (Guinea) since 2016 under the terms of an agreement for further development of the port.
The port of Douala lies on the Wouri river and is the leading port in the CEMAC economic zone (Central African Economic and Monetary Community). In 2016 it handled a freight volume of around 12 million tonnes.
However, the port is now at maximum capacity and so is eager to call upon the expertise of Antwerp in order to expand its output. Under the terms of the MoU, APEC (Antwerp Port Training Centre) will examine the possibility of organising training courses for dock workers with a view to maximising the efficiency of port operations.
In the meantime APEC, which has already helped to train maritime professionals from Douala, will provide standard seminars and training courses. Consultants from PAI will also offer their expertise in making the most efficient use of the available port area. Finally, the agreement includes commitments in the field of marketing, exchange of information and best practices, and organising joint commercial events in order to promote both ports.