Interview: Asta-Rosa Cissé
In what ways has operational efficiency at the Port of Abidjan been improved?
ASTA-ROSA CISSÉ: The Port of Abidjan has made great progress in operational efficiency through the ambitious infrastructure works on widening and deepening the Vridi canal, which means ships can now enter at any point of the day. Increased specialisation has been also crucial in boosting port activity. In addition, the second terminal – known as TC2 – which will have capacity three times larger than the Abidjan Terminal, is set to be operational by the start of 2021. However, some elements still require improvement, including the digitalisation of the port, in particular procedures and formalities for Customs, ship owners and clients. Improvements could also be made to the outer part of the port, including the storage areas, known as Inland Container Depots or ICDs, to help reduce congestion.
Which measures could be adopted to promote intermodality between different types of transport?
CISSÉ: Intermodality already exists in Côte d’Ivoire thanks to the rail system that is connected to our terminal. However, we need to implement measures that incentivise customers to choose rail over road in order to make intermodality the backbone of the sector. Today, in relative terms, you can put more weight on a truck by overloading containers than on a train. While a directive by the West African Economic Monetary Union adopted restrictive measures, including fines, to limit the weight of trucks surveyed by the Chamber of Commerce of Côte d’Ivoire, these measures have not been implemented and carriers prefer to continue overloading trucks and avoid transportation by train, which cannot be overloaded.
To favour intermodality we need to introduce attractive control measures that reduce rather than increase logistics costs and facilitate the safe delivery of goods throughout the region. In this regard, the project in Ferkessédougou in northern Côte d’Ivoire will test intermodality from a conventional port near the ocean to a dry port bordering Burkina Faso.
What are the main challenges that need to be addressed in terms of port and road infrastructure?
CISSÉ: One of the challenges is to expand the road infrastructure, as there are difficulties in delivering goods outside the port. Currently, there is one road with a single entry and a single exit, causing bottlenecks and traffic jams in the port. Among various solutions, relocating the inland container depots outside of the existing port area has the potential to reduce bottlenecks and subsequent logistics costs. In terms of future changes, an operational port community single window is expected to be installed. This will enable different actors to share information and contribute to the dematerialisation of procedures. The implementation of this project has been delayed for various reasons, but it would be an important step forward.
How can digitalisation improve activity?
CISSÉ: Digitalisation is key to improving agility throughout the port area, reducing processing times and improving customer service for all stakeholders working in port-related activities. In 2020 new digital solutions will be adopted to improve container terminal activity, such as the online scheduling of appointments for carriers. Digitalisation should also improve the way Customs bodies communicate with each port stakeholder. Several improvements have already been made in recent years. For instance, previously, a truck leaving Abidjan for Burkina Faso went through five checkpoints. Today, all checkpoints have been removed, replaced by an electronic batch which is tagged to the truck that is taken back by Customs at the border exit. As far as Abidjan Terminal is concerned, our work is consistent with the overall digitalisation approach that will help the Abidjan Port Authority in its work on making the Port of Abidjan an attractive logistics destination.
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