Edem Tengue: “The port of Lomé has imposed itself on the world maritime map”

The Africa Tribune : What does the port and maritime economy represent in terms of contribution to Togo’s gross domestic product (GDP)?

Edem Tengue: The maritime economy represents nearly 75% of the country’s tax revenue and more than 80% of foreign trade. The port remains Togo’s main entry and exit point for international trade. The gross domestic product (GDP) generated in the port area would be more than 50% of the national GDP, according to our estimates, but the real weight of the port and maritime economy still needs to be clarified.

With 15% growth in 2020, Lomé has become the 4th container port in Africa. How do you explain such performances?

With a depth of 16.60 meters, the Port of Lomé is the only deep-water port on the West African coast, capable of accommodating deep draft vessels. Its status as a free port allows customs facilities which are synonymous with saving time. With 900 hectares of land, it is also an important center of commercial and industrial attraction, with a vast free zone (…) The results of the investments made a few years ago have borne fruit. We now have global container terminals such as LCT (joint venture between China Merchands Port Holdings and Terminal Investment Limited, port operator of MSC, editor’s note), capable of receiving the latest generation ships. The port is in addition, equipped with dockside handling equipment, worthy of the best, and the unloading and reloading times are among the fastest in the world.

In 2015, the MSC group arrived in Togo with the ambition of making Lomé its regional hub, promising to invest up to 500 million dollars by 2030. To what extent, the arrival of the Italian shipowner Switzerland participate in the growth of the port of Lomé?

The effects are multiple. About 1,000 direct jobs were created. With regard to the transfer of skills, the group financed a training center for crane operators and handling machinery drivers in Lomé. Since their arrival, the PAL has become the 4th container port on the continent. Today, the port of Lomé has established itself on the world maritime map. It is the leading transhipment platform for containerized goods in West Africa and the second in sub-Saharan Africa, just behind Durban in South Africa. It is also a major international crossroads for countries in the sub-region such as Mali and Niger. At the same time, the arrival of MSC has increased Togo’s ability to connect directly to other African ports.

What is the progress of the expansion project of the Port Terminal of the MSC group?

The terminal’s current capacity is 2.2 M TEU/year. Given the importance of the growth in port traffic, the LCT Terminal Board of Directors decided on an expansion of the Terminal to anticipate future needs. Work should begin in the next few days. It was also decided to acquire additional handling equipment.

Between the port of Kribi in Cameroon, the TC2 of Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire and the port expansion plans of Cotonou in Benin: is there room for everyone?

We are not part of a logic of competition and we believe that all existing infrastructures are complementary. In addition, we consider that port capacities in neighboring countries are not likely to threaten Togo’s leadership in maritime and port matters. Beyond infrastructure, Lomé also offers a whole environment that facilitates the exchange of goods, quickly and securely, thanks to its state-of-the-art infrastructure.

With 1,366,118 TEU containers handled in 2020, LCT’s share of the port’s overall container traffic was around 90%, ahead of Togo Terminal (Bolloré Transport & Logistics, BAL). With the announcement of the acquisition of BAL by MSC (5.7 billion euros, editor’s note), the Italian-Swiss group will find itself in a monopoly situation in Togo. What is the government’s position on this situation?

Although an agreement has been reached between the two groups, the discussions have not yet ended. Nevertheless, the government reserves the right to comment on this operation at the appropriate time. For the moment, any comment would be premature.

One of the major challenges lies in structural transformation and the development of logistics infrastructure that will improve service to the Interland. What is the operationalization of the dry port of Adétikopé?

Indeed, once the containers have been deposited at the port of Lomé, an ecosystem must be created which allows the goods to be transported to Burkina Faso, Niger or Mali, for example (…) It is in this perspective, but also to attract foreign investors and to strengthen our logistical capacities that the State has developed the Adétikopé industrial platform (PIA) equipped with a dry port. Inaugurated on June 6, 2021, this integrated and multisectoral platform included in the National Development Plan (PND, 2018-2022), in addition to offering a certain number of administrative facilities through its one-stop shop, will soon make it possible to support local transformation ( …) It will be operational in the coming days. We are currently in the technical adjustment phase. This platform will also eventually decongest the port area in accordance with the growth prospects expected in the years to come.

At the beginning of April, the executives of the maritime prefecture of Togo made a commitment to take up the challenges relating to the vulnerabilities of the ports. How do you approach security issues?

The issue of maritime and port security is one of our priorities. In recent years, the waters of the Gulf of Guinea have been plagued by several pirate attacks. However, Togo has resisted well, as evidenced by the number of ships waiting at anchor in the port of Lomé. Togo is recognized by the shipping community as having safe waters. The Head of State has also endowed the country with a maritime prefecture which coordinates the activities of all the administrations. This initiative makes it possible to quickly put the means of the national navy at the service of the fight against piracy and until now, this has been sufficiently dissuasive to discourage pirates.

What are the port development axes currently engaged by Togo?

We are going to continue the modernization of the autonomous port and we will ensure that the good results of traffic are sustained (…) At the same time, we give a central place to the strengthening of our legal arsenal, both in terms of environmental standards and that of of security. Togo has notably ratified a certain number of international conventions, but it has gone even further. In May 2021, the National Assembly passed a law on the development, protection and enhancement of the Togolese coastline. For the government, it is crucial to combine maritime development and environmental protection.