Rise of a New Maritime Power

By Ford, Neil; Price, Stuart | The Middle East, July 2005 | Go to article overview

Rise of a New Maritime Power


Ford, Neil, Price, Stuart, The Middle East


The rapid growth of the oil sector has resulted in a construction boom in Equatorial Guinea. New oil sector facilities have been required, while new hotel capacity has had to be provided. Bioko in general and Malabo in particular are likely to have changed beyond all recognition by the end of the current decade.

The construction boom has seen the regeneration of the country's air, land and maritime transport links as well as the main urban areas.

The international airport in Malabo, numerous road projects including interstate links with neighbouring countries, the re-development of Equatorial Guinea's two sizeable deepwater ports at Luba on Bioko and at Bata on the mainland--are all playing a role in a much needed general improvement to overall infrastructure.

Prior to the country's change of fortunes, its roads and other transport networks were loosely maintained and often inadequate. That is changing at a rapid pace.

The influx of foreign civil engineering and construction companies has seen the mushrooming of projects in the sectors crucial to handling and maintaining Equatorial Guinea's growth over the coming years.

In addition, improved infrastructural facilities, such as increased power generating capacity and new port facilities should benefit both the oil and the non-oil sectors.

Transport

The transport sector has been the focus of much of the new investment, with projects aimed both at improving links within the country and easing transport with the rest of the world.

Ports: Although Bata on the mainland is the principal port for agricultural and forestry exports and Malabo has been upgraded to increase capacity, the government opted to build a new port at Luba, on Bioko, in order to provide services to the oil sector.

Luba Freeport, some 40km south-west of Malabo, is the centrepiece of the country's infrastructural investment. The port offers a 200-metre deepwater quay and oil sector handling facilities, with room for the development of bunkering and storage services.

Given that a large proportion of Gulf of Guinea oil sector activity takes place offshore, Luba can become an oil services facility for the wider region serving as the main supply base for the wider West African oil exploration and extraction industry.

Finding itself strategically placed in the Gulf of Guinea, and blessed with naturally deep water, Luba has a minimum depth of 10m allowing it to comfortably handle both oceangoing ships as well as oilfield supply vessels.

The government awarded the contract to develop Luba to the Channel Islands-based British company, Incat Petroleum Services in 2001. In April of the following year, Luba Freeport Ltd (LFL) created a Joint Venture alliance with GEPetrol, the national oil company of Equatorial Guinea, which concentrates on government interests in the project.

Work commenced in September 2002 and by April of the following year, a 110m long quay and an initial 50,000sqm warehouse and storage capacity for American oil company Amerada Hess were officially opened by President Obiang.

Since then, development at Luba has continued and through its agreed concession with the government of Equatorial Guinea, Luba Freeport Ltd has increased its quayside capacity, established fuel storage and distribution at the Luba Oil Terminal, servicing areas, cargo storage, work and machine shops.

In addition to these facilities, it also boasts fabrication, maintenance and repair facilities and an oilfield logistics base.

Moreover, in the longer term the government hopes that a more general industrial zone will build up around the port and so has set up an Autonomous Free Zone for the import and export of materials to and from Equatorial Guinea and transit cargo for other destinations outside the Republic.

This is likely to benefit both the local population and the economy as a whole given the expected rise of potential revenue of this tax exempt area. …

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