Africa’s coastline, 26 000 kilometers in length, has more than 100 ports, of which just over 50 have the capacity to handle cargo and containers. For a continent aiming to unlock the potential of its Blue Economy, Africa is progressing towards an enhanced, efficient and globally-competitive port infrastructure. As a specialist African marine fuel supplier providing services at more than 50 of the continents ports, SABT offers you a snapshot tour of 10 of the shipping terminals that are leading the way.

1. Port of Durban, South Africa

This Indian Ocean port in the deep south of the continent takes top place amongst Africa’s ports. It is the 4th largest port in the Southern Hemisphere, and South Africa’s main cargo and container port. In testimony to its efficiencies and world-class facilities, it is the busiest port on the entire African continent. Almost two hundred years ago, the 1824 settlers from Europe made a landing here and the strategic potential of what was known as the Bay of Natal was immediately evident. They set up a trading post, and the rest is history.

2. Suez Canal Container Terminal, Egypt

In the northern reaches of Africa, a ‘new-kid-on-the-block’ has developed at Port Said East. With an impressive container terminal that started operations in 2004, this is one of Africa’s newest port developments that boasts state-of-the-art facilities and features. It is located at the northern entrance of the Suez Canal, ideally facilitating European trade to and from the Middle East, Asia, East and Southern Africa. Whatever it may lack in history, it makes up for in size and volume, speed and productivity.

3. Port of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Set in Tanzania’s popular, historic and principal city; this is a medium-size port which handles a staggering 95% of the country’s international trade. Situated at the confluence of two major railways, it also plays a vital linking role from the East Coast of the continent to the hinterland. The port opens up so many opportunities for international trade by also serving the landlocked countries of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia and Malawi.

4. Lagos Port Complex, Nigeria

Located in the Apapa area of Lagos, this major shipping destination in the Gulf of Guinea comprises of Lagos Port next to Lagos Island; as well as the container terminal, Apapa Port and Tin Can Port which are both situated in Badagary Creek. Each year, the cargo throughput and general cargo trade at Complex continue to increase. In pursuit of a vision to be the continent’s leading port, the Nigerian Ports Authority has an ongoing focus on improving infrastructure, rehabilitating facilities and linkages, and deepening channels.

5. Tanger-Med Port, Morocco

40 kilometers outside of Tangier, on the Straits of Gibraltar, and just 15 kilometers from Europe, this port was opened in 2007 with the aim of driving economic growth in the North Moroccan region. It is distinct from the Port of Tangier, which is the main port for ferries. With facilities that can cater to up to 3.5 million containers, this is one of the biggest ports on the Mediterranean Sea, and in Africa.

6. Port of Mombasa, Kenya

Centuries ago, dhows sailing the Indian Ocean would call near the site of the present-day Port of Mombasa. Later Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama would oversee the building of what is now known as the ‘Old Port’. During colonial times, a railway from Mombasa to Kampala in Uganda opened up the hinterland and spurred a trade boom in ivory and skins, tea and coffee, that in turn, stimulated the construction of a deep water harbour and a jetty that could handle larger ships. Today, the busy, developed Port of Mombasa remains a key maritime terminal on Africa’s East Coast.

7. Port Louis Harbour, Mauritius

The capital city of Mauritius evolved from a harbour in use in the 1630’s. Today, the well-developed Port Louis Harbour is still the island country’s sole point of access by sea. With three modern terminals handling everything from tourists and fish to bulk sugar and fuels, the Mauritius Ports Authority is recognised by local awards for business excellence.

8. Port of Maputo, Mozambique

Over recent years, a number of African ports have entered into public-private partnerships to facilitate the effective day-to-day management and future developments of the continent’s important shipping touchpoints. This critical Southern African harbour situated on Maputo Bay in Mozambique’s capital city is overseen by the Maputo Port Development Company, a collaboration of government, multinational giants such as Grindrod and local specialists such as DP World.

9. Port of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

Connected to the Atlantic Ocean by a channel almost 3 kilometers long, the Port of Abidjan is set on the shores of a lagoon in the Ivory Coast’s capital city. The container terminal is managed by a joint venture between government, Bolloré Africa Logistics and APM Terminals. Already, the largest port on Africa’s West Coast and the greatest obstacle to Nigeria’s bid for port supremacy in the region, a $2.5 billion upgrade is due to be completed in 2020.

10. Port of Djibouti, Djibouti

For over 3500 years, Djibouti has served as a key, secure maritime passage on the East-West trading route, and time has not diminished its importance. The port stands at the crossroads of one of the most vital shipping routes in the world that links Europe, Arabia, the Horn of Africa and the Far East. It provides critical and safe access for trade with Ethiopia. As far as productivity and efficiency go, this is one of Africa’s best performers.