Shipshape port’s reforms boost economic diversification drive

M. Marcel Hilaire Lamizana

General Manager of the Autonomous Port of San Pedro

An overhaul of operations and infrastructure at the Autonomous Port of San Pedro (APSP) has seen traffic rise almost fivefold, from 1 million tons in 2010 to 4.7 million in 2014. The port authority’s general manager M. Marcel Hilaire Lamizana discusses the transformation in depth and its effect on the country’s wider development. 
With GDP growth rates of 8.5% GDP in 2014 and aiming for more than 9.4% in 2015, are we experiencing the second economic Ivorian miracle?
Thank you for offering me the opportunity to express myself again in the name of the institution I’m honored to direct: the Autonomous Port of San Pedro.
The construction of the Autonomous Port of San Pedro, in 1971, was a part of the integrated development program initiated in the ‘60s by the Ivoirian government in order to reduce regional disparities, create a development pole in the southwest of Côte d’Ivoire, and serve as a transit harbor for countries such as Mali, the east of Guinea, and Liberia.
Today our aim is to transform the Port of San Pedro into a geostrategic development pole, dynamic for sub-regional integration, with terminals and working with public-private partnerships.
To get back to your question, are we experiencing the second economic Ivorian miracle, it is important to remember that the first phase of the economic development of Côte d’Ivoire – which coined the initial term “economic miracle” – was marked by the development of an open, liberal economy, through the development of the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors.
Then, thanks to a strong commitment from the state, it focused heavily on the agricultural sector – now the plinth of the economy - by developing cash crops such as coffee, cacao, hevea, palm oil, etc.
Through the development of agribusiness, Côte d’Ivoire succeeded in achieving important economic growth rates that allowed it to finance the economy through a national financial system. In addition to this, the massive investment made in social infrastructure (roads, highways, bridges, ports, airports, housing, new cities, hospitals and health centers, schools, universities…) stimulated the nascent economic dynamism of the independent Côte d’Ivoire, to place it on top of the West African sub-region, with more than 35 % of UEMOA’s GPD.
Indeed, the political commitment of the Ivoirian authorities to carry out large projects was promoted by the late President Felix Houphouët Boigny who created the Authority for the planning of the southwest region (ARSO), and for the construction of a new city – San Pedro – endowed with a port, agro-industries, and big plantations of hevea and palm trees.
The Authority for the planning of the Bandama Valley (AVB), in the center of Côte d’Ivoire, made growing rice, sugar cane and many other products possible.
Regarding transport, there was the creation of the Abidjan Transport Company (SOTRA), a national company for air transport and airports in every big urban center on behalf of Air Côte d’Ivoire, the creation of a maritime transport company (SITRAM), and the development of rail transport.
Summing up, we can find all those elements in the present government’s policies, driven by Alassane Ouattara, Côte d’Ivoire’s President, through the creation and rehabilitation of economic and social infrastructure, modernizing the Ivoirian economy.
It is a country that for the second consecutive year is considered among the Top 10 world reformers, according to the Doing Business 2015 ranking.
Besides that, the government committed to making the mining sector an important lever of economic growth for the country, by resizing port infrastructure and through the development of new logistics and industrial zones throughout the national territory, offering new job opportunities for the young Ivoirian population.
All that reflects the vision and commitment of the President, “making the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire an emergent country in 2020”, resulting in the national plan for development (NDP) which covers 2010-2015 that puts forward a bright future for an emergent Côte d’Ivoire in 2020.
Thanks to all this, we are sure that the next Ivoirian economic miracle is ineluctable, due to the enhanced confidence, peace, and stability.
The government has set the goal of Top 50. How can the country achieve this aim?
To me, the government will have to make efforts for the country’s transformation process through the amelioration of economic and political governance, the increase in investment in basic common infrastructure (transport, telecommunications, education, health), the improvement of people and goods transportation, harbor modernization, industrial development, social cohesion, and lasting stability.
What is your evaluation of the ecosystem that is the city and the port of San-Pedro? How could they be better connected to benefit the city with a more harmonious urban-port space?
The last General Meeting of the Worldwide Network of Port Cities (AIVP), which took place in Dublin in May 2015, aimed to re-evaluate the relation between the port and the city, to ensure sustainability between the two entities defined as the “Smart Port City” or the “Working Waterfront”.
This year, the IAPH’s 29th conference in Hamburg touched on the same theme.
For us, the city-port relations would automatically lead to a partnership including all the entities (town council, regional council, port authorities, economic players, administration authorities, and citizens) of the city.
Also, we must work in synergy in order to design a port-city viable in every sense (economic, cultural and touristic).
This means collaboration between San Pedro, the autonomous port management, the port population who enjoy good relations with other communities, and the central government.
This must be strengthened at the levels of urban and port spaces. That’s why we advocate an institutionalization and better governance of city-port relations and the development of a collaborative and participative policy of those entities.
The Autonomous Port of San Pedro worked its way up as a port of strategic importance for the southwest region, contributing to 5% of the GDP, 15% of customs revenue, and with 40,000 direct and indirect jobs. What were the actions undertaken in order to position the Autonomous Port of San Pedro where it is today?
The Port Authority designed the Port of San Pedro’s development plan (2010-2035) and a corporate plan for 2013-2015, consistent with the national development plan (NDP 2012-2015), to be implemented every year.
However, for the next five years, a strategic plan will be elaborated to achieve recommendations for development planning at the port.
Besides that, as soon as we took office as head of this institution, we launched a deep transformation of company management, one that is focused on seeking performance by a quality approach, the creation and the implementation of a new business strategy for each “sector”, the provision of infrastructure and equipment, operational optimization, further improvement of security, and development studies.
As such, as marine and port operations resumed, the maritime authority started to strengthen existing infrastructure and equipment and to optimize their exploitation: they saw the rehabilitation of protection and reception works (jetties, docks, bollards, terraces), all the port waterways, bathymetric studies to guarantee the basin depth, and the consolidation of the structural, functional and operational organization of the autonomous port by the establishment of a new board of directors.
This permitted conformity to the ISO 9000:2008 certification in the fields of port management authority, ships callings, and the management of the port field, in addition to the ISPS code of norms.
The implementation of the new trade policy by sector and the optimization of the port exploitation had positive effects on the port, which increased from 1 million tons of traffic in 2010 to 4.7 million in 2014.
The traffic in the port increased significantly during these last years, for instance up 49% in 2011 and up 72% in 2012; in 2020, we expect the annual traffic to be multiplied by five. Which have been and will be the essential investments to be able to welcome the increasing flow in the port (second terminal, port extension, ore dock, oil terminal)?
The current traffic development at the port of San Pedro results from the new trade policy by sector, but also from the infrastructure rehabilitation and the port equipment maintenance to optimize the port exploitation.
The port infrastructure availability combined with making customs and administrative procedures also had a positive impact on the image of the port.
What’s more, in order to respond to the maritime trade requirements and to have essential infrastructure and equipment – adapted to welcome expected traffic volumes from 10 to 50 million tons – the port authorities, with the strong support of the government and the president, aspire to improve infrastructure and to acquire modern equipment in order to strengthen the competitiveness of the port.
Those structural projects will allow more control on those traffic flows, which will make the Ivorian economy more competitive.
The projects include: the construction of a new container terminal, a polyvalent industrial terminal, an oil logistic platform and hydrocarbon terminal, a semi-industrial fishing port, construction of a harbor, the development of 150 hectares of the port area, and the creation of a port upstream in Odienné.
How do those measures support the government objective of diversifying the Ivorian economy?
This huge program supports the economic policy by providing a response adapted to the various economic actors (at the national and sub-regional levels).
Indeed, the strategic choice of building specialized terminals in the port – for containers, dry bulk (cereals, cement…) and liquid (oil, petrol, gas…), industrial fishing, and tourism – is perfectly aligned with the Ivoirian economic diversification policy, which promotes the development of all sectors.
It seems clear that the emerging Côte d’Ivoire will have to count on the Port of San Pedro’s contribution.
The arguments for this assertion are based on the development projects for the Port of San Pedro, defined in the master plan, whose major point is the exploitation of the southern mines in Côte d’Ivoire and to create a rail link from Man to San Pedro.
In addition to those projects, the creation of a new airport, the improvement of road connections from the port to the hinterland, and the construction of a highway from Abidjan to San Pedro have been planned.
All those new elements will certainly accompany the diversification of our economy.
How important is this in order to reduce regional disparities throughout the Ivorian territory?
The implementation of the Port of San Pedro master plan will certainly have a significant impact not only for the port and the city, but also for the state.
The implementation of the plan will enable freight traffic to increase 50 million tons/year, ship traffic by 1000/year, a 90% increase in revenue (70 billion FCFA), the increase of the port services supply, and the strengthening of the competitiveness of exporting companies.
Regarding the city and the hinterland, it will help to increase the gross local product (GLP) from 300 billion to 1000 billion FCFA (from 5% to 10%), and add to the creation of new jobs (more than 20,000 direct and indirect jobs), and to the development and revaluation of urban spaces. Regarding the state, its tax and custom revenue will increase by 50%.
International and sub-regional trade will get more and more help and sub-regional integration will be enhanced.
All those results should contribute to significantly reduce poverty (from 43% to 35%) and regional disparities, and strengthen the development pole role of the city of San Pedro.
How would you evaluate your role in helping neighboring countries – Mali, Guinea and Liberia – and boosting the regional economy?
The Port of San Pedro, since its creation, has been used as a transit port for its neighboring countries – Mali, Guinea and Liberia. Since a few years ago, the new trade policy by sectors and the disposability of the welcoming infrastructure – combined with accelerated procedures, a strong customs administration, participation and a good information system that we are trying to develop in the port of San Pedro – have allowed us to consolidate our relation with those states.
That’s why, aware of the strategic role we have to play with those states, we lead strong lobbying actions to improve road connections, fluidity and facilitation of transport.
In a tough climate of regional competition, how do you manage to be the choice of preference?
The port of San Pedro has a better geographic position compared to other ports in the sub-region. It is a deepwater port directly linked to the sea, for deep-draught vessels (-13m) on the West African coast.
This was not the case for most of our competitors. That being so, we have, thanks to the operating rules, reduced the time ships harbor at the port (less than 48 hours in 2014).
We also accompany the various operations through a strong contribution from the customs council and an IT system, upgraded to ease operations in the Port of San Pedro.
All of this contributes to reducing the port call cost and to make it more competitive.
APSP is the first deep-water port in Côte d’Ivoire. In the long term, in what ways is this an advantage for you?
Being a deepwater port gives the ships the advantage of direct access to the sea, thus facilitating seaworthiness. In the long term, the deep-water port has the advantage of being able to be developed receive increasingly voluminous ships (8000 to 1600 TEUs).
The Ivoirian State is strongly committed to supporting the road and rail infrastructure development to better connect the APSP. Is this support quick enough to accompany the APSP’s growth?
The state commitment is first political and then financial. However, the financial needs are so important that the state cannot take care of them alone.
That’s why, in addition to the public funds we are expecting, we ask also the private sector to invest in the Port of San Pedro.
Even though we are waiting for the implementation of the big projects for the Port of San Pedro, we would like to have enough financial resources to improve it, to encourage new industrial and logistics units, and to optimize and increase port traffic.


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