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LONDON: May 22, 2018. A report by risk consultants Allan & Associates says while investors have been attracted to the strategic port of Djibouti in recent years, warning signs as a result of changes to the region’s geopolitical landscape should not be ignored.

Located near some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, with access to the Indian Ocean and Red Sea, Djibouti has remained a relative haven of stability, unlike its neighbours Somalia, Eritrea and now war-torn Yemen.

‘Djibouti offers an attractive environment for investors in the Horn of Africa, but be careful how you tread,’ said Allan and Associates report author Olivier Milland, a senior analyst and Sub-Saharan Africa specialist.

DjiboutiCurrently pursuing a strategy of becoming a regional transshipment hub, the country's government faces competition to the east from Somaliland, developing its port at Berbera, and Sudan to the west that plans to sell stakes in the management of Port Sudan, the country’s only commercial port on the Red Sea.

This has led to "erratic" policies noted Milland in his study - citing the government’s seizure in February this year of the Doraleh Container Terminal (DCT) from UAE-based port developer DP World, claiming the concession contravened state sovereignty. The case is currently being heard by the London Court of International Arbitration.

The report concludes there are now “significant” investment risks in Djibouti including growing corruption, rising public debt and the over-reliance on Chinese investments; dependence on Ethiopia that sends 95 percent of its exports through the port; the ongoing rift between some Gulf states; and the ‘America First’ policy of Donald Trump.

Last year China replaced the US as the country’s number one source of foreign investment: In 2012 the Djibouti government sold 23.5 per cent of its Doraleh Multi-Purpose Port to state-owned China Merchants Holdings; the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation is building two new airports in the country at a cost of US$599 million; and Djibouti has three ongoing infrastructure projects with China that are likely to play key roles in the country’s Belt and Road initiative, according to Milland.

And despite the dispute with DP World, he said Singapore-based contractor Pacific International Lines, a member of a Belt and Road consortium, signed an agreement with the government in March this year to develop DCT in order to increase annual cargo volumes 30 percent.

“Changing geopolitical dynamics in the region, amid protectionist policies in the US and a rift between the Gulf countries are posing additional challenges for investors,” Milland concluded.

Pictured: Djibouti president Ismaïl Omar Guelleh (centre) unveils the foundation stone for a new development at the DCT in 2013. DP World chairman and CEO Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem (left) looks on.

MOBILE, AL: April 18, 2018. The Port of Mobile is to open a new vehicle processing RoRo terminal at a cost of US$60 million by the end of 2019.

The Alabama State Port Authority (ASPA) and AutoMobile International Terminal, a joint venture of Terminal Zárate and SAAM Puertos, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to convert 57 acres of a derelict bulk handling facility at the port into an automotive processing and logistics terminal.

With a depth of 40 feet, the facility will be served by five Class I railroads linking all of North America, nearly 15,000 miles of inland waterways and two Interstates: 65 and 10. Mobile is currently ranked the 10th largest U.S. seaport by volume.

Airbus Mobile AL(Pictured: Last September the 50th shipset of Airbus A320 components arrived at the Port of Mobile from Hamburg for delivery to the nearby Airbus U.S. manufacturing facility.)

“This agreement represents a key step in diversifying the Port Authority’s business while providing a strategic asset to regional automotive shippers,” commented James Lyons, ASPA director and CEO.

After requesting proposals in 2016, the ASPA selected Buenos Aires-based Terminal Zárate that specializes in port services for cars, containers and project cargo handling. With 540 acres north of the city on the country’s Paraná River, last year it handled 625,000 vehicles on behalf of manufacturers and RoRo shipowners.

SAAM Puertos is a subsidiary of Sociedad Matriz SAAM, a Chilean multinational company listed on the Santiago Stock Exchange, that provides port terminal operations, towage and logistics in 11 ports in 13 countries in the Americas including Mexico, the U.S., Colombia, Ecuador and Costa Rica.

“This project is a significant component of our growth strategy and given our strong experience as a RoRo terminal we are convinced we will develop AutoMobile International Terminal into a world class processing and handling facility,” said Terminal Zárate president Robert Murchison.

Yurik Díaz, manager of SAAM Puertos added: “We look forward to work together with Terminal Zárate and the Alabama State Port Authority and bring all our knowledge and experience to the service of the terminal, and consolidate our position in America.”

ASPA said funding for the project would come from federal grants totaling US$41.5 million and from the terminal concession-holders.

LEKKI PORT, Nigeria: April 16, 2018. CMA CGM and Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise have signed an Memorandum of Agreement to operate the country’s first deep-sea container terminal at the Lekki Deep Sea Port, 65 kilometers east of Lagos.

CMA Terminals will be responsible for marketing, operations and maintenance of the new facility due to open in 2020 with an eventual annual capacity of 2.5 million TEU.

Lekki port CMA CGMThe China Harbour Engineering Company, through its subsidiary China Harbour Engineering LFTZ Enterprise, is responsible for constructing the container terminal’s marine and landside infrastructure. When complete, it will have a 1,200-meter quay and 13 cranes to accommodate vessels up to 14,000 TEUs.

Nigeria’s first deep-sea port and the deepest port in Sub-Saharan Africa designed to relieve congestion at Lagos, is being built and operated by LPLE, a joint venture led by the Singapore-based Tolaram Group, together with the Lagos State government and the Nigerian Ports Authority.

The port will be located in the Lagos Free Trade Zone (LFTZ) being developed by the Tolaram Group as a multi-product and logistics hub for the West Africa region. When complete it will cover an area of nearly 2,000 acres and is expected to support petroleum and petrochemical facilities, agri-commodity businesses and general manufacturing, according to the company.

Navin Nahata, Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise CEO commented: “We are excited about this development because CMA Terminals is a world class port operator and can be relied upon to provide international port standard delivery services at par with most modern ports around the world to the Nigerian port customers.”

CMA CGM said the Lekki container terminal would allow it to expand its presence in West Africa’s first consumer market and serve as a transshipment hub to neighboring countries including Togo and Benin.

SAVANNAH: March 27, 2018. The Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) has begun construction of its US$126.7 million Mason Mega Rail Terminal that will increase the Port of Savannah’s rail lift capacity to one million containers per year.

MASON MEGA RAILWhen complete by 2020, Savannah’s Garden City Terminal will have a total of 180,000 feet of rail, 18 working tracks and the capability of building 10,000-foot unit trains. GPA estimates it will take more than 200,000 trucks off the road annually.

“This project is a game changer,” said GPA Board chairman Jimmy Allgood. “Our team estimates the Mason Mega Rail Terminal will slash rail time to the Midwest by a good 24 hours, and present a viable new option for many manufacturers, shippers and logistics professionals.”

To serve the expanded rail yard, the GPA is also ordering eight rail-mounted gantry cranes that will span nine tracks to improve the movement of containers from trains to on-terminal jockey trucks.

“The Port of Savannah has the cargo capacity to quickly load unit trains for expedited service to inland population centers,” said GPA executive director Griff Lynch. “Over the past year alone, our average container moves per vessel has increased by 15 percent, and exchanges of 5,000 twenty-foot equivalent container units are now common.”

The new rail infrastructure is part of an expansion plan that includes the harbor deepening, the single largest ship-to-shore crane fleet in North America, 60 additional yard cranes and expanding truck gates. The Garden City Terminal currently handles 38 trains a week.

“Today is a great day for Georgia and the nation,” said Georgia Governor Nathan Deal. “Not only will this new intermodal facility take trucks off the road and bring our products to market with greater efficiency, but it will open a new corridor for American commerce to and from the Midwest.”

ROTTERDAM: February 19, 2018. A consortium of Air Liquide, AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals, Enerkem and the Port of Rotterdam Authority (PRA) are to invest an initial €9 million to develop an advanced waste-to-chemistry plant in Rotterdam.

Built at an estimated cost of €200 million, the plant will be able to process 360,000 tonnes of waste into 220,000 tonnes or 270 million liters of 'green' methanol.

Rotterdam port The first of its type in Europe to convert plastic and mixed waste into new raw materials for industry, it is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 300,000 tonnes annually.

The Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate, the Municipality of Rotterdam, the Province of South Holland and Innovation Quarter - the regional development agency - are supporting the project in a bid to establish a low-carbon economy through the use of new technology.

"This is an important milestone for the project and a huge step on the road to a sustainable and circular chemical industry," declared Marco Waas, director of RD&I at AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals, and chairperson of the consortium. "This agreement comes at an extremely appropriate time considering the current challenges regarding recycling and plastics in Europe. We can process non-recyclable waste into methanol, an essential raw material for a large number of everyday products, such as sustainable fuel for transport.

"On the one hand, methanol can be used in existing supply chains as replacement for fossil fuels. On the other, it offers the advantage of there being no CO2 emissions during the incineration of waste," he continued.

The plant is expected to be built in the PRA's Botlek area using technology from Enerkem in Canada to process non-recyclable mixed waste, including plastic, into synthetic gas and then into clean methanol for the chemical industry and the transport sector.

Allard Castelein, PRA CEO added: "This waste-to-chemistry project is an important step on the road to a more sustainable Rotterdam industry. Waste becomes a raw material for the chemical industry. This is a great step forward that fits well in our circular economy ambition."

DP World BananaBANANA, DRC: March 25, 2018. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has awarded DP World a 30-year concession to build the country’s first deep-sea port on its 37 kilometres coastline.

The first phase, opening in 2020 at an estimated cost of US$350 million, will include a 600-meter quay and 25-hectare yard extension with a container capacity of 350,000 TEU and 1.5 million tons for general cargo.

DP World has signed a 70:30 joint venture agreement with the DRC government at a total project cost of US$1 billion over four phases that will give the country direct access to world trade lanes for the first time.

According to Jose Makila Sumanda, DRC vice prime minister and minister of Transport and Communications, the country has been waiting for its own deep-sea port for a long time in order to reduce its dependency on neighboring countries.

“We are excited to partner with DP World on this landmark project. The Port of Banana will offer the first deep-water port to the Democratic Republic of the Congo that will dramatically improve the cost and time of trade as the majority of the cargo is still handled by neighboring countries,” he said.

DP World chairman and CEO Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem added: “Investment in this deep-water port will have a major impact on the country’s trade with significant cost and time savings, attracting more direct calls from larger vessels from Asia and Europe, and ultimately acting as a catalyst for the growth of the country and the region’s economy.”

(Pictured left to right: DP World chairman and CEO Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem and Jose Makila Sumanda, DRC vice prime minister and minister of Transport and Communications, at the signing of the Port of Banana concession.)

Riga handlingRIGA, Latvia: December 06, 2017. The Baltic port of Riga says it has become the first in Europe to use containerized dry bulk handling technology.

Rīgas universālais termināls (RUT) is using the method to deliver pellets from warehouse to pier in open-top 20-foot containers that are lifted using a portal-frame that revolves the container and deposits its contents into the ship's hold.

The technology is described as a "revolution" because using closed standardised containers, dry bulk can be transported from the place of extraction, stored at a terminal without unloading from the container and then loaded onto a ship using the same unit.

"The main benefit is significant optimization of terminal expenses and increase in performance [as] savings on resources amount to almost 50 percent," said RUT Trade and Business Development director Atis Šulte. "By introducing containerized cargo handling, we have become more competitive and can better adjust to customer requirements."

Šulte said the new process, used in Australia and South America to handle metal ore, coal and grain, enables the loading of dry bulk and containers at the same pier using one portal-frame lift for any type of ship.

Up to 80 percent of Riga port traffic is made up of transit cargo forwarded to or received from the Commonwealth of Independent States.

ANTWERP: March 7, 2018. Following a recent agreement to help develop a new port in Dakar, Senegal, the Port of Antwerp is to provide Douala, Cameroon with a similar level of expertise over the next five years.

"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 and Douala signingDouala is a leading port in the Central African Economic and Monetary Community and handled 12 million tonnes in 2016. Now at maximum capacity, the Port Authority has turned to Antwerp for help in organizing training courses for dockworkers to improve operational efficiency.

Antwerp handles 15 million tonnes of West African freight a year and the volume of containers handled by the region’s ports has grown significantly since 2009 explains Van Peel: "These ports are liable to have considerable further growth in container trade in the immediate future. Antwerp offers the greatest number of direct shipping services to West Africa, making it the ideal gateway to Europe for this trade," he concluded.

As with Dakar, the new agreement between the two ports includes commitments for joint marketing, trade relations, and information exchange of Customs procedures, security and sustainability for the next five years.

Despite having one of the most diversified economies in the CEMAC region, Cameroon’s economic growth slowed to 3.7 percent in 2017 from 4.4 percent in the previous 12 months, according to the World Bank. However the government continues to implement an ambitious infrastructure plan while incentives for the agriculture and forestry sectors have contributed to sustained strong growth in public works, construction and services.

The Bank adds that Cameroon suffers from weak governance that hinders development and ability to attract investments. The country ranked 153 out of 180 countries on the 2017 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index and placed 172 out of 189 economies in the World Bank’s 2016 Doing Business Report.

(Pictured right to left: The collaboration agreement was signed by Cyrus Ngo’o, CEO of the Port Autonome de Douala, and Marc Van Peel and Kristof Waterschoot (not shown), respectively chairman and managing director of APEC and PAI, the two Antwerp Port Authority subsidiaries providing training and consulting services.

BlockLabROTTERDAM: September 25, 2017. The Port of Rotterdam Authority and the Rotterdam Municipality have launched 'BlockLab' to develop applications and solutions based on blockchain technology.

Blockchain is based on the premise that users can conduct transactions without involving a third party. Data technology guarantees the necessary checks and balances and ensures the transactions are processed automatically.

This makes it possible to structure large-scale networks, chains and markets far more efficiently than before – without the need for a dominant, regulating party says the port.

"There's this huge buzz about 'blockchain', but actually, there aren't that many fully functional applications," explained Rotterdam deputy mayor for Economic Affairs Maarten Struijvenberg. "We'll be changing this with BlockLab. This is important, because we need real innovations to launch the next economy. And blockchain can help us realize them."

"But I'm also thinking of the numerous applications that can be realized within logistics chains thanks to blockchain, allowing us to organise cargo flows more efficiently. This step is seamlessly in line with our 'smartest port' ambitions," added Port Authority president and CEO Allard Castelein.

One of the first projects is a blockchain application for stock financing in the port logistics sector, developed in partnership with Exact and ABN AMRO.

ANTWERP: March 02, 2018. The Port of Antwerp has agreed to support the Port of Dakar, Senegal develop its new 'Port Du Futur' that will accommodate the world's largest containerships and include an economic and logistics zone of 600 hectares.

Antwerp SenegalDakar has an annual freight volume of 17 million tonnes and one of the few West African ports able to handle ships of any size. In 2007 DP World signed a 25-year concession to operate and maintain the current container terminal.

"We will make use of our experience and expertise to help Dakar realize its ambitions," commented Kristof Waterschoot, CEO of two Antwerp Port Authority subsidiaries PAI and APEC. "Our consultancy subsidiary PAI will assist the port authority with the necessary expertise for developing a multipurpose terminal and deepening the approach channels so as to maximize the capacity of the port," he added.

The MoU between the two ports also includes commitments for joint marketing, trade relations, and information exchange of Customs procedures, security and sustainability for the next five years.

According to the World Bank, greater competitiveness, structural reform progress and a favorable external environment has made Senegal one of the best performing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa with average growth of 6.5 percent in the past two years.

Almost three quarters of its 2015/16 growth is due to a 15 percent and 13 percent rise in exports in 2015 and 2016 respectively,

Last year DP World Group chairman and CEO Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem met with Senegalese president Macky Sall to confirm a development plan for Port Du Futur with construction to begin before the end of 2018.

(Pictured: Signing the MoU this week were Aboubacar Sedikh Beye for the Port Autonome de Dakar, and Kristof Waterschoot, CEO of two Antwerp Port Authority subsidiaries PAI and APEC. The ceremony was attended by Belgian first minister Charles Michel (center) and deputy first minister and minister of Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo,)

PORT ST JOHN, Canada: September 13, 2017. Port operator DP World and PanAm Railways are launching an intermodal rail service between the New Brunswick port and Boston via Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Port St John Canada 1According to PanAm Railways executive vice president Michael Bostwick, the link via the inland container terminal at Ayer, MA will provide a viable alternative to customers in the New England area.

"We will provide value to importers and exporters via an alternate gateway into the large consumer markets around Boston and central New England that reduces congestion on the highways. As the vessel calls at the port increase, we will be there to grow our service offerings and train capacity to match those needs," Bostwick explained.

Curtis Doiron, DP World Saint John general manager said an integral part of his company's strategy is to extend its market coverage through competitive intermodal connections in Canada and the U.S. and the new service will provide existing and new customers a viable gateway option.

"The Port is a transition point between marine services and inland transportation networks so the natural geographic advantage of Port Saint John, located close to the U.S. border, is now enhanced," said CEO Jim Quinn.

"Importers and exporters seeking to move goods to and from major centres in the North East now have an option that will get them there faster and move over shorter inland distances," he added.

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