The west African nation of Liberia became a fast-growing economy in 2011 despite civil wars and political upheavals. This was due to the growth led by the agricultural sector especially exports of rubber and timber.
The nation’s economy is primarily based on agriculture followed by mining and telecommunications. The main imports include machine equipment, consumer products, raw materials, refined petroleum, boat propellers and centrifuges. Liberia imports these trade goods from China, Japan, South Korea, Brazil and Germany.
The country earns valuable revenue through exports of rubber, diamonds, gold and iron. The country has trade links with North America, Europe and also Middle eastern nations.
Liberia also has many natural resources yet political conflict and corruption hinder economic growth. It has five ports that need to be expanded and also the infrastructure needs to be improved to meet global standards.
The National Port Authority, made by an Act of the country’s legislature is a state body that operates, manages, plans, and builds the ports in Liberia. Liberian ports play a crucial role in the development of the economy as they bring in precious revenue that is much needed in this gradually developing the African nation.
In this article, let us look at the ports in Liberia.
Port of Monrovia
Monrovia city is the capital of Liberia and the Monrovia Port is the biggest and the premier port of the country. It is situated on the western coast of Africa having a man-made harbour that is sheltered and protected by two breakwaters, spanning 4 km North-west and south-west from the banks.
The port exports iron ore, crude rubber, bulk latex, coffee, cocoa, timber, seafood etc. The imports comprise petroleum products, building materials and all kinds of general cargo.
This is Liberia’s busiest port and deals with 735,000 tonnes of cargo and 20,000TEU every year. Tankers with LOA 198.1m can access the port as the draught is 9.1m.
A new dock was built measuring 600 meters in the main port area and it has three berths. The first is the silo berth, the second is the container berth and the third is the conventional berth.
The company that primarily operates at Monrovia port is APM Terminals that operates the Container terminal and the Bulk Terminal. The land is owned by the National Port Authority.
The APM terminals have built a 600 m wharf at the port. This port expansion project cost $50 million. A new port modernization plan is being implemented that would cost $34.5 million. This programme would revamp the port infrastructure, including the construction of a new operations department building, pavement of yards, building new gates, installation of latest software systems to track container and cargo movements, a new drainage system, a biometric system etc. After it is completed, it would drastically increase the port’s efficiency.
The port equipment is managed by the company, APM Terminals. The port does not have fixed shore cranes and so all the ships coming here need to use their crane. The port has 6 reach stackers with a capacity of 45 million tonnes, 9 tractors to transfer goods and bulk cargo from the docks to the storage spaces and 4 forklifts with varying capacities ranging from 5 million tonnes to 14 million tonnes. The port also has 2 handlers with a capacity of 10 million tonnes.
APM terminals are also planning to bring in more port equipment. The port has much more potential and is not congested.
The port offers container facilities including a container freight station, cold storage facility, and 120 reefer stations. The port has no facility for handling grain and bulk cargo. Bagging services are not available but there are 4 grabs and the APM terminal can aid in unloading grains.
The Main storage terminal comprises an open yard measuring 10 hectares, It is used for storing containers as only containerized cargo can be stored at this port.
Port of Buchanan
Buchanan Port was built in 1960 by the Liberian American Swedish Mining Corporation for exporting the iron-ore deposits from the Nimba ranges located nearby.
The Buchanan Port is the second biggest port in Liberia, situated 90 km southeast of Monrovia. Its harbour is well-sheltered, having two breakwaters, the main one and the second one that is 1,890m and 590m long.
It receives all kinds of carriers and ships, but 77% of vessels coming here are bulk carriers. About 200 m long ships weighing around 6650 DWT can enter this port as the draught is about 8.5 m.
This port mainly deals with ore exports. In the inner basin, a quay for loading ore is located that is 225 m long and is near the commercial dock. Its water depth is 10.5 m. There is another berth near the ore berth that is used for the ore carriers. The commercial berth is 334 m long and has a water depth of 9.6 m. It lies on the secondary breakwater while the ore quay is near the shore.
This port is important for the Liberian economy as it carries out a huge chunk of Liberian international trade and adds significantly to the economy. The port exports about 11,500,000 tonnes of cargo and goods while the Imports account for 250,000 tonnes. The largest vessel that came to this port had an LOA of 290 m and the draught is 12.9 m at the ore loading quay.
The entrance channel to the port has a water depth of 11.5 meters and the channel between the breakwaters is 210 m broad. This port has seen an increase in cargo traffic in recent years due to an agreement regarding handling port equipment. The agreement signed with UMARCO has led to an improvement in the Port’s services, handling capacity and has simplified the port operations.
The government and the Port Authority believe that many big companies such as Chevron, Equatorial Palm Oil, and African Petroleum etc are interested in using the Port facility for carrying out trade operations. This is good news for the Liberian economy as now Buchanan port has the potential and opportunity to earn handsome revenues.
However, this requires more investment in the port’s infrastructure so it can be at par with global ports. Also, there is a need to improve its operational efficiency and bring in smooth and strict management to prevent delays in operations.
Port of Greenville
Greenville Port lies in southeastern Liberia and is sheltered by 450 meters long breakwaters. The interior has two docks and two berths measuring 70 m and 180 m respectively.
It is multimodal and easily accessible by waterways, roads and also railways. Its strategic geographical location offers the most effective and cheap transportation services.
Greenville is a designated U.S Port of Entry. It is an important centre of national and global trade and brings in millions to the Liberian economy every year. The port has also led to the creation of employment and also financially aided the local coastal communities.
It is one of the busiest and biggest ports that handle a variety of cargo every day. It has modern equipment that is fully functional and adds to the port’s operational capacity. It has a 60 tonnes bridge crane and also huge storage facilities such as a 22,000 sq. ft. warehouse with and a
50,000 sq. ft outer paved storage area.
It also has a 130 tonnes crawler crane, a 100 tonnes crane, 5 forklifts of different capacities ranging from 5000 lbs to 50,000 lbs, clam buckets, skid loader, truck hopper and a 50,000 lbs wheel loader. It has a Sennebogen 835 crane for carrying out loading and unloading operations, an LST 218 crawler crane, Truck and rail conveyor belts, and magnets for removing scrap.
This port deals with 5.3 million tonnes of cargo traffic annually. A large number of raw materials and goods from the delta area are transported via the Greenville port. These include corn, wheat, soybeans, rice, gasoline, diesel fuel; bio-diesel products; chemicals; steel, scrap steel, lumber, and other wood-based goods.
The port also offers harbour and fleeting service and also drydock and ship repairs. It has separate terminals for handling grains, LPG Gas, sand and gravel.
Port of Cape Palmas
The port of Cape Palmas is located in south-eastern Liberia in the North Atlantic Ocean near Cote d’Ivoire. It is a medium-sized port that mainly deals with timber, logs and rubber exports. Its anchorage depth is 9.4 m to 10 m and the cargo pier depth is 11 m to 12.2 m.
It has a small breakwater and so large vessels have to be loaded or unloaded from the anchorage. About 66,000m3 of timber is loaded in the form of logs to cargo ships weighing about 6,000 DWT. These ships are loaded at the anchor and the logs are towed there.
The port exports about 6500 tons of rubber every year and receives vessels weighing from 1000 DWT to 6000 DWT. However only the former can berth at the dock and the latter at the anchorage.
Port of Harper
The Harper Port is about 760 km from Monrovia and shares its border with the Ivory Coast. It was built in 1959 on the rocky islands. It is small compared to the other ports in Liberia and covers only 9.23 acres.
It has a 100 m long wharf of concrete that has a water depth of 5.5 meters, and so only small vessels can dock at this port.
The southern portion of the port has an administrative building, an office and a repair workshop while the western part hosts the operations department building. The pier lies on the northern side of the port area.
The port of Harper is now used for importing food items and construction equipment from the capital, Monrovia. It also exports teak and rubber to Buchanan port. From Buchanan, these materials are supplied worldwide.
This port was primarily built to export oil palms, timber, rubber and to import machinery, building and construction material, petroleum goods and other foodstuffs. But civil wars and political unrest severely impacted the port’s activities and reduced the efficiency of services.
Now, this port handles only general cargo and containerized cargo for humanitarian services. It needs to be refurbished since shanty buildings and broken containers can be seen lying in the open.
The port needs much infrastructural development. Currently, there are no storage facilities and also reduced berthing facilities. It requires dredging up to 10 to 13 m to accommodate bigger ships.
Tug and pilotage service is also not available. The port has an open storage space and handled 7000 MT of cargo in 2019.
The port does not have much port equipment, just 2 forklifts with a capacity of 5 million tonnes and also no container terminal is present at this port. The containers are kept in the open storage area that spans 1050m2.
Given the port’s condition, the Liberian Government has commenced the Harper Port refurbishment project in February 2021. This would lead to the construction of a petroleum storage terminal in the port area, which would cost US$ 6 million. There are plans to dredge the port to attract investment, companies and bigger vessels to increase the port’s cargo traffic.
This project that began with a public-private partnership is expected to create more direct jobs, reduce prices of goods and bring more revenue to Liberia.
These are some of the important ports in Liberia that are crucial for the economy of the country. As it is still recovering from the economic damages created due to civil wars and internal unrest, these ports contribute significantly to the country’s economy and also offer employment to the local population.
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Disclaimer: The authors’ views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Marine Insight. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Marine Insight do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendations on any course of action to be followed by the reader.