With the second phase, we dream bigger
According to the General Manager of Kribi Polyvalent Multiple Operators (KPMO), with the second phase of the Port construction, the Multipurpose Terminal Operator should inherit the current 615-metre quay, which would enable the setting of three berths to accommodate larger vessels.
Around ten months after the start of commercial operations in the Port of Kribi, where KPMO is a major stakeholder, what is your progress assessment?
Ten months of operation in a port is not much to draw conclusions that can impact the major operational orientations. Nevertheless, these ten months can provide some perspective on what was still a pilot project a year ago. From this period, we will obviously draw some satisfactory points and points for improvement. These fall within operations, namely operational coordination between operators on both terminals, who have to work hand in glove and for the interest of either party due to intrinsic constraints of the first phase, such as the current quay length; better communication between the Port Authority, PAK and stakeholders, with an increase of weekly meetings; a better coordination of commercial activities so as to improve on diversifying traffic in the Port of Kribi.
However, there are satisfactory points: the number of vessels handled in the Port, above 175 vessels whereas in the best-case scenario, forecast for the first year stood at 100 vessels; safety conditions complying with ISPS Code standards; immediate control of workstations by employees and dockers; rates peaking at 2600m3/day, namely on the Multipurpose Terminal, with limited technical means, which glaringly portrays the expertise of our human resources; a very cordial relationship between the Port Authority and stakeholders.
On the five months of operations of the Multipurpose Terminal that you are operating, more than 100,000 m3 of logs have been handled. What are the main characteristics and evolutions of timber traffic?
Indeed, thanks for noting that on five months of operations, more than 100,000 m3 of logs have been handled with a variable evolution… It could have been better if operational and meteorological, conditions were more favourable. This bodes well for the specific activity of the Multipurpose terminal for the year 2019, especially as it focused solely on exports of logs. Negotiations are underway with some operators of the sawn timber sector which could help significantly improve timber traffic.
Are you surprised by the enthusiasm over the Port of Mboro? How can you explain it?
The enthusiasm over Mboro is no surprise to the inured operator that we are, since everyone with a good knowledge of Cameroon’s ports, knows that the Port of Mboro is the ANSWER of the President of the Republic to the obsolescence of existing infrastructures expressed by Cameroon’s port operators. An answer that I hereby commend. We therefore have the right to expect greater enthusiasm in the months ahead, after a period of observation during the public was still dubious about the effective operation of the Port of Mboro.
After these ten months of observation, what, in your opinion, are the real assets of the Port of Kribi? What can or should be its competitive assets, namely on the Multipurpose Terminal that you are operating?
The exceptional nautical conditions of the Multipurpose Terminal of the Port of Kribi cannot be overstated to the various shipowners and port users who will choose to come there, with an 18-meter draught per tide, a 5000m2-warehouse, an open storage area of 4ha allowing quality handling and storage, with mobile cranes, high-performance lifting equipment, as we know that these conditions represent two-third of shipowner’s decisions to dock in a port. The Multipurpose Terminal of the Port of Kribi equally has an average rate of more than 2000m3/day under normal operation conditions. These first two conditions lead to a third which is the smoothness of maritime traffic, contrary to other local ports.
Despite the depth, is the small space of the quay (only 265 metres) not a serious hurdle, and even a threat to the quality of operations provided by the Multipurpose Terminal in particular?
When answering your first question, we identified among constraints the current quay length, which basically does provide room to accommodate big-size vessels. This issue will be tackled during the second phase of the project that will enable the operator of the Multipurpose Terminal to use of the current 615-metre quay and should provide 3 berths to accommodate big-size vessels. However, this hurdle can be currently minimised by a better coordination between both terminals, materialised by loosening the barrier between them, in the event of an “unusual” operation. Such loosening does already exist and erases risks to operations quality pending the completion of Phase 2, that we are already so keen to see.
How is your collaboration with PAK and the other stakeholders of Mboro going?
Conviviality and a common desire to succeed provide room for easing relations between stakeholders and PAK, in a bid reducing misunderstandings and intervening quickly and effectively on "micro-crises", the increase of periodic consultations, will further improve cooperation.
What are the areas of dissatisfaction on which you have the highest expectations for improvement in the coming months?
Indeed, we had some operational challenges which had a negative impact on our production, but which are in the past now. This is the opportunity to express our warm thanks to PAK for its timely intervention in tackling these challenges fast. We do hope that the completion of Phase 2 of the construction of the Port, which will provide the Multipurpose Terminal with better assets, therefore improving its accommodation capacity. We also bet on a better coordination between terminal operators and an increase of commercial activities for better results
In your opinion, how is the general traffic to Cameroon and to Kribi especially going, as compared to Pointe-Noire, its closest competitor port?
The geostrategic position of the Port of Kribi, at the crossroads of the main straits of the Gulf of Guinea, makes it an opportunity for Sub-Saharan Africa, and international trade, in terms of fluidity and security. The port you mentioned so far concentrates a large part of the sub-region's traffic, thanks to the nautical conditions offered there, which are more or less the same as those of the Port of Kribi, which therefore has nothing to envy it, and takes its full share, in the traffic of the area upon completion of Phase 2.
Some operators seem to be complaining about the high rates in Port of Kribi: is this not a short- and medium-term hurdle for the Port overall competitiveness?
The rate is the meeting point between service offer and demand. It is therefore a permanent negotiation between parties where everyone is working to make profit. At the Port of Kribi, it is true that rates are based on the quality of the service provided even though it is equally true that we should go above a prohibitive threshold. In defence of the Port of Kribi, we must say that evaluation is done on a case-by-case basis, for a better understanding of customers, so there is no risk of potential hurdle