Key port takes on “major challenges”
THE $2.2 BILLION CHAD-CAMEROON OIL PIPELINE IS EXPECTED TO INCREASE TRAFFIC THROUGH THE PORT OF DOUALA BY 15%, A TURNING POINT IN THE FORTUNE OF CAMEROON'S LARGEST PORT

Alphonse Siyam Siwe
Alphonse Siyam Siwe
Managing Director of the Port Authority of Douala

Strategically located Cameroon is working to become more competitive by making its shipping and customs facilities faster, and therefore cheaper.
Major programs are being undertaken to improve the efficiency of both the customs agency and the port of Douala, which is the largest not only in Cameroon but also in the entire six-nation Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC). In fact, the port serves an area extending well beyond the CEMAC, inhabited by some 200 million people.
The managing director of the Port Authority of Douala, Alphonse Siyam Siwe, has a long list of “major challenges” to meet, but he is addressing them “with calmness and optimism.”
Mr. Siyam Siwe notes that the very creation of the Douala Port Authority, in 1999, shows “the government’s determination to make the country’s economy ever more competitive and capable of generating wealth by adapting it to the international context, which is mainly characterized by an intensification of economic exchanges across borders.”

The “major challenges” to be met are all basically involved with “improving the port operations and above all economic competitiveness,” which in essence means speeding things up.
In fact, complaints about the port’s slowness in handling cargo was one reason that Mr. Siyam Siwe was put in charge in the first place, when the Douala Port Autority took over from the old National Port Office.
“It was found that both the length of time and the cost of transit were excessive. The reform measures that have been undertaken aim to reduce costs by improving productivity,” he says.
But making shipping operations quicker and therefore cheaper depends not just on the Port Authority itself, he notes, but also on the customs authorities and other players, such as fowarding agents, who should bring down their costs “within the limits of profitability.”

Built at the end of the 19th century, when Cameroon was still a German colony and trade was carried on mainly with Bremen and Hamburg, the port has been expanded and modernized repeatedly over the course of its history. It now has the capacity to handle 7.5 million tons of freight per year, well over the actual current volume of around 5 million tons per year.
Its 2,500-acre area, with storage space for 11 million tons of goods, stretches for six miles along the banks of the Wouri river. The port compound is served by about 12 miles of paved roads and 15 miles of rail tracks, which are connected with the national networks.

The Port Authority is dredging the harbor to ensure access for vessels with a 10 meter draft

There is plenty of room for further expansion, since only about half the total area is presently in use.
Although the Port Authority is state owned, it is considered financially autonomous and works closely with the private sector. “The cornerstone of the port reforms in Cameroon,” says Mr. Siyam Siwe, “is the development of a dynamic private-public partnership.”
He points out that the Authority’s “main partner” is the African Development Bank, while recent major projects have been undertaken in cooperation with the World Bank, Japan, Germany, and France.
Having completed the modernization of its container terminal, the Port Authority is now working on dredging operations to ensure access for vessels with a draft of up to 10 meters.

One very important factor in the port’s future is the construction of the $2.2 billion Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline. This project, together with the planned development of Chad’s Doba oil field, is expected to increase the traffic through the port by some 15%.
“The pipeline will bring us substantial business,” comments Mr. Siyam Siwe. “I would say it will be high value-added and high quality traffic, which above all provides an environment favorable to other initiatives.”
Just as the port of Douala is striving for greater efficiency, Cameroon’s customs service is also modernizing its services and, at the same time, cracking down on corruption.
The director of the Cameroon Customs bureau, Antoine Manga Messina, is working with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on a three-year modernization program designed to speed up operations, track freight more closely, and avoid possible cases of fraud.

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