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Tanzania to lead with construction of Africa’s biggest sea port

In the recent past, the pace of new transshipment port developments in Africa has increased with demand almost always exceeding supply. Now, countries such as South Africa, Morocco, Nigeria, Kenya, Djibouti, Namibia and Tanzania are embarking on plans to build transshipment facilities of their own. Some of these countries presented extensive capital investment plans at the Africa Ports and Harbours Show in Sandton, South Africa recently.


In March 2013, China announced a US$ 10billion investment in East Africa, for construction of a new port at Bagamoyo, Tanzania, northwest of the capital Dar es Salaam. Scheduled for completion by 2017, Bagamoyo is to become by far the biggest port in Africa. With a planned cargo of 20 million containers per year, it will be 20 times larger than the current port of Dar es Salaam and 7 times bigger than Morocco’s Tanger Med which is the current biggest port in Africa with handling capacity of 3millionTEU a year.

Tanzania’s ambitious port investment project has the potential to boost international economic relations with the entire region, notably with the landlocked countries like Malawi, Zambia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.

South Africa

In South Africa,prefeasibility work that will deliver the final spatial design and plan for Durban’s over R100billion (US$10billion) dig-out port has begun. According to Marc Descoins, Durban dig-out port programme director, this is just the establishment of an extremely rigorous process before the first phase is delivered in early 2020.

Speaking at the Transport Forum, in Durban, recently, Descoins stated that a great deal of front-end research had been done adding that the fatal flaws analysis yielded many risks but no show-stoppers. While there may be some alterations to layouts and phases, the overall concept was unlikely to change.

Descoins pointed out the new port and the existing port need to coexist, not just in terms of servicing industry, but also in terms of facilitating developments within the existing harbour that need to take place.


Tanger-Med, a cargo and passenger port located about 40 km east of Tangier, Morocco, is one of the largest ports on the Mediterranean and in Africa by capacity and went into service in July 2007. Its initial capacity was 3.5 million shipment containers. The project is a strategic priority of the Moroccan government for the economic and social development of the North Morocco region.

Once Tanger Med II which is the extension of the current facilities, has been completed in 2015, the harbour will have a total capacity of 8.5 million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit), making it as well the biggest port in the Mediterranean Sea.

Its particular position on the Straits of Gibraltar, at the crossing of two major maritime routes, and 15 km from the European Union will enable it to serve a market of hundreds of millions of consumers through the industrial and commercial free zones which will be run by well-known private operators. It will also win part of the strong growth market of container transshipment and become the leading hub for cereal transshipment, a facility which is non-existent in the north-west African region at present.

The project will be implemented, coordinated and managed by TMSA, a private company with public prerogatives, operating under an agreement with the State and interacting with the different ministries involved.

The port complex will have important economic effects in terms of jobs, creation of added value and foreign investment. In addition to the economic effects of the operation of the port, there will be important effects resulting from its construction, particularly through foreign investments, and others from the operation of the free zones.

The port is expected to reach full capacity by 2015, and to operate 8 million containers, 7 million passengers, 700,000 trucks, 2 million vehicles, and 10 million MT of oil product.


Djibouti’s location is probably its prime asset. The small country on the Horn of Africa has a population of less than a million people but it is looking forward to positioning itself as a gateway for Asian and European countries to tap into the East African market.

The port of Djibouti’s commercial director, Djama Ibrahim Darar, told the conference that Djibouti will invest US$6billion in ports and other maritime activity over the next three years. More than 87percent of the funds are already secured. Djibouti’s transshipment port, Doraleh container terminal, is already 18m deep, compared with South Africa Ngqura’s 16m.

In Kenya, Mombasa has been unable to meet demand for years. The country plans to dredge the port and build new berths but its focus has fallen to the proposed port of Lamu. To fast-track the ports development, Kenya Ports Authority’s project manager for Lamu, Peter Oremo, said the government is in talks with Chinese firms, who are expected to finance most of the project.

It is likely to be structured as a private-public partnership (PPP).

Despite criticism of the massive scale of the project, authorities are determined to develop the 18m-deep port, at a cost of US$5.3billion. Construction is expected to begin next year. The port is just one element of the US$22.3billion Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia corridor. Its primary aim is to link Lamu with the oilfields in South Sudan.

Aside from the port and a new oil terminal, it includes a highway, railway line, resort cities, new airports and an oil refinery. Oremo said investors can expect a 20percent rate of return on average for all the projects on the corridor.


Meanwhile, trade flows to Nigeria have long been hamstrung by severe congestion at the Lagos port. As a result of this, Nigeria plans to build the ambitious Ibaka deep-sea port, will eye transshipment traffic from the US and Europe.

Musa Wada, an engineer at the Nigerian Ports Authority, says Ibaka has a natural depth of 17.5m, but is likely to accommodate 15m vessels. Ibaka will also be a PPP, of which private partners are expected to invest 60perecent of the cost. The port development will be planned with a free trade zone.


In Namibia, the engineering, procurement and construction contract for the Walvis Bay port expansion is set to be awarded in August, with construction expected to start early next year and completion scheduled for 2017.

Speaking at a Namibian investment seminar, in Midrand, recently, Namibian Ports Authority (NamPort) executive for marketing and strategic business development, Christian Faure, said the port was being expanded to further position Walvis Bay as the gateway into the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

The company is currently finalising the financing for the N$3billion (US$300million) project, which would add 650,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) a year capacity to the current 350,000 TEUs a year capacity.

Faure said the Walvis Bay port was on par with South Africa’s Durban and Cape Town ports and, with Namibia’s reach to more than 300million potential consumers in the SADC region, the hub was ideally positioned as the preferred access route to markets in Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Angola and Botswana.

Transnet Port Terminals chief executive Karl Socikwa says they are excited about the progress as everyone will benefit from a fully developed competent transport infrastructure in Africa adding that collaboration will be an essential element of an optimised African logistics supply chain.

He says Transnet Port Terminals is devising a regional ports plan to improve integration. It has also made its general cargo operating system available to ports in Benin and the Democratic Republic of Congo and is considering a regional transshipment strategy.

Africa has high hopes for ports expansion as this will attract industries and investment and create jobs. At present, African countries rank low in indexes on the ease of business and trading across borders.



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