Maersk Line is seeing the fruits of its long-range plans to invest heavily in emerging growth markets like West Africa, according to an article in this month's issue of the company's internal magazine, Maersk Post
“Generally speaking, everything is on the rise,” Maersk’s line manager for West Africa Sonny Dahl said the article. “Due to a low level of industrialisation, the basic picture is one of natural resources going out and even more finished goods coming in. Exports have risen but so have imports and at an even faster pace.”
According to the article, from 2010 to 2011, the number of containers with electronics transported to main West African ports in Nigeria and Ghana jumped by 65 percent, an increase Dahl called very high, albeit from low levels.
“A number of African countries import just about everything,” he said. “Basic goods such as rice and palm oil still make up great volumes. Motorcycles, inexpensive cars and electronics are also rising sharply. More people have incomes to purchase these things.”
An executive with Maersk’s sister company APM Terminals said infrastructure expansion could boost imports in Africa further.
“Many places need upgrades in order to increase their ability to handle larger volumes, service the ever-increasing size of vessels and the increasing sophistication of cargo transportation,” said Peder Søndergaard, APM Terminals’ head of the Africa and Middle East region. “With double-digit growth rates in some markets, fast growing economies are often struggling to keep pace with these upgrades.”
Dahl pointed to Maersk’s investment in so-called WAFMAX vessels, ones specifically designed to overcome draft restraints in West African ports.
“The WAFMAX has improved both efficiency and reliability because it was custom designed to operate more efficiently in West African ports,” he said. “The capacity and fuel efficiency of these vessels means we’re able to move more cargo for more customers and with fewer ships. That has helped us to improve service for customers and operate more efficiently in West Africa.”
But he said for the WAFMAX vessels to reach their potential, West African ports need more capacity and more efficient and transparent customs declaration processes, while West African business need to upgrade their logistics planning capabilities.