Exporters will fund port rehabilitation: at long last, it seems that Liberia's ports, all of which are in a general state of disrepair, will be given a new lease of life to ensure the smooth export of rubber and iron ore. Neil Ford reports.

Author:Ford, Neil
Position:LIBERIA - Cavalla Rubber Corporation
 
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Several Liberian ports are to be redeveloped in the latest stage of efforts to rebuild the West African country's infrastructure after the devastation of its long civil war.

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The Cavalla Rubber Corporation (CRC) plans to rehabilitate the port of Harper, largely in order to ship its rubber production out of the country; Buchanan is to be brought back into use to serve the iron ore industry and Monrovia needs to be redeveloped as the country's main port.

While donor support will be required on Monrovia, private sector companies are to fund the other two schemes as part of integrated investment packages for the country.

At present, only Monrovia is a functional multi-use port, as the country's other three ports, Buchanan, Greenville and Harper are all in urgent need of investment and currently handle only timber products. However, Harper could be first in line for a major overhaul following the announcement that CRC has held talks with Liberia's National Port Authority (NPA) over the port's future.

Ownership of many Liberian plantations was disputed after the end of the war and the Rubber Planters Association of Liberia was given a one year temporary contract to manage the Cavalla rubber plantations.

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However, last December ownership passed to CRC, which is owned by Salala Rubber Investments, which in turn is a subsidiary of one of the world's biggest rubber firms, Dutch company Acomo. The company hopes to supply Michelin with its Liberian rubber. CRC is reported to be investing more than $25m in the Cavalla plantations and it now needs to find an outlet for its exports. Harper has been barely used for many years but it is hoped that both bulk and container facilities can be installed at the port, while new cargo handling equipment will be required and the harbour basin may need redevelopment.

Putting together a financial package may take some time but CRC has already committed $1m to road redevelopment in the area and will probably have to provide much of the project finance, although donor loans could also make a contribution.

Iron ore conduit

While Harper is set to become a rubber port, Buchanan should also be redeveloped to take advantage of another of Liberia's main raw materials. As reported in African Business in March, Arcelor Mittal has agreed to increase its investment in Liberian iron ore production from $lbn to $1.5bn. The company's chairman, Lakshmi Mittal, held a press conference with...

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