Port of Antwerp International (PAI), the consultancy and investment subsidiary of Antwerp Port Authority, has been appointed by the Council of Ministers of the West African country of Benin to modernise the port of Cotonou. This port is the economic heart of Benin, handling an annual freight volume of around 12 million tonnes. In the longer term, the port authority wants the port to grow further, but both the infrastructure and the organization are outdated. The government therefore decided to temporarily outsource the management of the port.
“We are delighted that the Benin government has opted for the expertise and knowhow of Antwerp,” says port alderman Marc Van Peel, who is also chairman of PAI. “With our subsidiaries APEC and PAI we have been working for a long time on the passing on and sharing of knowledge and experience, in order to strengthen the worldwide network of our port and to ensure that Antwerp is and remains top of mind at the international level of decision makers in the maritime world ”, says Van Peel.
Importance of West Africa
The importance of West Africa for the port of Antwerp can hardly be underestimated. Antwerp has the highest proportion of direct services to West Africa of all ports in Northwest Europe, which translates into a market share of almost 50%.
PAI is certainly not an unknown player in Benin. This investment subsidiary of Antwerp Port Authority already carried out various consultancy tasks in the port of Cotonou in 2017. The port has a strategic importance in the region, as it is also one of the main gateway ports for the sub-region, in particular the countries of Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali.
To further expand and strengthen this position, the government decided to temporarily outsource the management of the port, so that a reformed port authority could fully compete with the surrounding ports. After a selection procedure and negotiations, an agreement with PAI was reached.
At the beginning of January, PAI signs the agreement in Cotonou. “Our main task will be to modernise the port authority in organisational terms, renovate the obsolescent facilities and prepare for and guide the expansion of the port,” declared Kristof Waterschoot, managing director of PAI. In the short term PAI will take over some key functions within the port authority, in order to study the processes from the inside.
Development of Cotonou
PAI now seeks to recruit eight expats who will carry out the task on the ground. “For example we’re looking for a CEO and a Chief Financial Officer, but we have the explicit aim under the terms of our remit to organise management training courses for local managers, to prepare them for a gradual transfer of these key functions,” explained Waterschoot. For this purpose PAI will among others call upon APEC, the training centre for the port of Antwerp.