Gabon is a central African country lying on the western coastline of Africa, bordering Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Congo. It is a developing country with an economy dependent on oil and petroleum reserves. According to Economists, Gabon would witness slow economic growth as the nation’s oil reserves would be exhausted by the end of the decade.
The country is covered with dense forests providing timber and other forest products which form the second-biggest export commodity after oil. Manganese mining is the third biggest contributor to the GDP followed by agriculture. Recently, iron-ore deposits have been discovered in Gabon, said to be one of the largest in the world.
Lack of entrepreneurial zeal among the citizens and ineffective measures have arrested infrastructural growth. The economy lacks diversity, the Gabonese market is small and the country is dependent on France for most of its imports consisting of machinery, construction equipment, grains and packaged food. Other trade partners include Belgium, China, the US and Cameroon.
Mentioned below are the main ports and terminals of the small equatorial country.
1. Port of Gentil
Gentil port, also called Mandji, lies on the southwestern coast of Baie du Cap Lopez. It is the principal port and a densely populated industrial centre of Gabon. The port accommodates RORO carriers, oil tankers, supply boats, containerised goods and general cargo. Operated by the Gabon Port Management, Gentil is the only port in the country providing bunkering and freshwater services.
The west African port consists of numerous timber and petroleum industries, situated in its vicinity. Veneer production is also undertaken in the second largest city of Gabon which is known for its tropical and exotic wood such as the ebony, Kevazingo and Okoume. A traditional brewery, processing plant and chemical factory are located on the premises.
Main exports comprise logs, plywood, palm oil, seafood, rice, furniture and petroleum. The port receives shipments of construction equipment, industrial raw material and manufactured items. It has a total cargo capacity of 1 million tonnes and 10,000 TEUs. Gentil port can accommodate up to 80,000 DWT ships with an overall length of 183 m and a draught of 10.5 m.
It has a main quay covering 450 metres with a water depth of 11 m. The Cape Lopez oil terminal lies 10 kilometres northwest of port Gentil and accommodates 30,000 DWT oil tankers on its three floating berths. An important fishing port, it has a 280 m fishing wharf lined with stalls selling fresh seafood.
Storage facilities include a 6000 m2 warehouse, a 2-hectare container and general cargo yard and 4000 m2 of covered sheds. It has 12 reach stackers, a tugboat and a mooring boat. Shipping lines operating at the port use their equipment for loading and unloading operations.
2. Port of Libreville
Located on the western coast of Africa close to the Equator, Libreville port handles around seventy per cent of the country’s shipping trade. It covers 22 hectares of ground area and incorporates a container terminal operated by Bollore ports and a general cargo handling facility. It operates all seven days of the week and undertakes 24/7 berthing operations. The General cargo terminal has two wharves stretching 450 m with an alongside depth of 10 m.
Owendo Container terminal
The container terminal is equipped with the latest operating system and fully functional port equipment. It offers reliable and competitive services to its customers. Located some 25 kilometres upstream from the main port, this facility handles containers and bulk cargo like magnesium and cement. The terminal is visited by more than 1000 container ships carrying 5,170,000 tonnes of cargo annually.
It has 3 container berths covering 775 m with an 11 m draught and a breakbulk berth capable of accommodating 40,000 DWT carriers with a draught of 12.5 m. Port equipment such as 3 ship-to-shore gantry cranes, 2 rubber-tired gantries, 4 reach stackers, 5 empty handlers and 15 tugs are available.
The container freight station has 198 reefer connections and a storage capacity of 6600 TEUs. An additional 2500 TEUs can be stored in the storage shed located outside the port premises. The container yard covers 10 hectares and is mainly used for stacking containers and keeping equipment. It also contains 2-grain silos with a total capacity of 10,000 tonnes and 5 tanks with 10,500 tonnes storage capacity.
3. Port of Mayumba
Mayumba is an Atlantic seaport on the southwestern coast of Gabon near the Mbanio Lagoon which supports the regional fishing industry. Tarpon comprises 80 per cent of the catch and is relished throughout the country. Covered with expansive equatorial forests, Mayumba is renowned for exporting lumber. Also, oil has been extracted in the nearby region since the 1950s.
The tourism industry is slowly gaining ground in Mayumba as it has become easily accessible through national highways, railways and an airport. Earlier the town lacked infrastructural development, however, with the construction of Mayumba port, the city witnessed economic growth.
Mayumba is a quiet town with a small population. It has many unexplored beaches stretching between the Atlantic ocean and its tropical forests, lined with coconut trees. Mayumba national park is the most famous tourist attraction. It has rare species of antelopes, African elephants, lions and diverse flora and fauna. The reserve is also a nesting ground for the rare leatherback turtles, an endangered species for whose protection the park was created.
Mayumba port has three wharves covering 678 m, with a designed capacity for 800,000 tonnes of cargo. The general cargo berth is 450 m long and 45 m wide. Speedboats, supply vessels and small fishing boats are handled at the 200 m long wharf. A small berth decked with a repair workshop accommodates fishing vessels and tug boats. The port does not handle container cargo and does not provide cold storage facilities.
The authorities are planning to expand the port by building 5 additional docks for accommodating greater volumes of cargo traffic and new generation ocean-going vessels.
A well-sheltered natural harbour, it has a 200 m wide access channel and two breakwaters. A wood storage area is located at Matuoti covering 30 hectares along with a 2500 m2 open yard.
4. Port of Nyanga
Nyanga is one of the least developed provinces of Gabon. It has a beach and a public park but is not famous among tourists. The locals depend on farming and livestock rearing. Nyanga port supports the local fishermen community which lives near the Nyanga river.
Nyanga port is located at the mouth of River Nyanga just 30 nautical miles from Mayumba. It is a small port with an anchorage area capable of accommodating 10 vessels simultaneously. It exports wooden logs and forest products like resin.
The nearest town is Tchatamba, lying along the northern shores of the river near the Mouila and Ndende in the Ngounie region. The city is linked to port Gentil through railways and to the capital via airways.
Nyanga hosts one of the biggest Sunday markets in Gabon where locals sell their fresh produce every week. Rice cultivation is concentrated in this part of the country and the city has three rice mills. Other crops include groundnuts, bananas, cassava and palm oil, processed at an oil refinery housed in the Nyanga port. Recently, mining and marble processing units have opened in the town as the government plans to develop it, following the discovery of iron-ore deposits in the southwestern part of the province.
5. Lucina terminal
This crude oil terminal is situated off the southern coast of Gabon, 17 nautical miles from Pointe Kouango. An offshore oil export terminal, it consists of 2 oil-producing wells sheltered by 5 single, four pile platforms having three storage tanks.
An 80,0000 DWT floating storage unit called Banio is connected to the Single Point Mooring through an underwater oil pipeline. There are no draught restrictions for maritime vessels and the terminal can accommodate tankers weighing up to 140,000 DWT. Lucina handles around 6,000,000 tonnes of crude oil annually.
6. Oguendjo Terminal
Oguendjo Oil Terminal is located southwest of Port Gentil, about 51 nautical miles from Cap Lopez. It is operated by Perenco Gabon SA and contains a production Platform B, lying 2 nautical miles northeast of the terminal, Production Platform C which is 1.5 nautical miles southwest of the offshore terminal and an offshore loading berth housing a floating storage vessel called Fernan Vaz that is moored by 12 anchors and chains mooring system.
An underwater pipeline connects platform B with the storage vessel located near Port Gentil in about 27 m of water depth, 9 miles off the coast. The company’s office, storage tanks and a laboratory for testing oil are onboard the Fernan Vaz. Oil tankers are filled using three floating hoses and the loading berth can accommodate tankers weighing not more than 170,000 DWT.
7. Cape Lopez Oil terminal
Cape Lopez lies on the Prince’s Bay and forms the western end of Gabon, separating the Gulf of Guinea from the Southern Atlantic Ocean. It is named after Lopes Goncalves, a Portuguese sailor who reached its shores in the early 15th century.
An oil loading terminal, it exports crude oil and petroleum products. The bay provides a sheltered anchorage area however tornadoes are common between October and May. Located on the southeastern side of Cape Lopez, the terminal is close to Port Gentil.
An old lighthouse stands at the Cape, constructed by the Dutch in the late 16th century. Another one constructed in 1911 has been inactive for many years. More than 500 vessels visit the port annually. The terminal can accommodate ships with an overall length of 340 m and a 20.5 m draught, weighing not more than 250,000 DWT.
8. Tchatamba Marine Terminal
This terminal lies 80 nautical miles from Cape Lopez and consists of a Mobile Offshore Producing Unit and Madiela, an FSO located on the loading berth. The crude oil obtained from the 4 oil wells is processed in the offshore processing unit and then transferred by an underwater pipeline to the Floating Storage and Offloading vessel for storage and export. The Terminal is designed to accept vessels weighing up to 140,000 DWT. It is also linked to the Tchatamba Marine-1 field situated 90 miles south of Port Gentil.
An offshore oil and gas company, MODEC operates the terminal. It had purchased a trading tanker called Anitra and converted it into Madiela, equipped with a mooring system and offloading equipment. It also bought a jackup drilling rig and transformed it into an offshore unit.
9. Gamba Terminal
Gamba terminal port lies 185 kilometres northwest of Gabon, close to the border of Congo. It contains a tank farm and a Single point mooring, about 5 nautical miles offshore. It exports oil extracted from the Rabi Kounga oil fields in the Ogooue-Maritime, the westernmost province of the country. The oil field was discovered in the 1980s and explored by the Dutch Shell Company. It is estimated that over 450 million barrels of oil are present in the field and daily production amounts to 155,000 barrels.
The terminal can accommodate tankers weighing up to 150,000 DWT. It also contains 9 storage tanks and an advanced security system for preventing oil spills and leakages.
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