Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Container Crane Order for French Freight and Logistics Group as Road Haulage Contract Criticised

Whilst Work Increases in Port Sector Rates Cut Hits Local Truckers
Shipping News Feature

CONGO – CAMEROON – SIERRA LEONE – FINLAND – Logistics group Bolloré feature in the news this week as details were released of a major African order for the supply of container cranes from Konecranes, the Finnish headquartered materials handling group, whilst further to the North East trouble was brewing over the French freight company’s road haulage commitments to supply trucks for a local mining enterprise.

Recently Konecranes received an order for eight Rubber Tired Gantry (RTG) cranes from Bolloré for delivery to container terminals operated by Bolloré Africa Logistics in Pointe Noire, Congo, and in Douala, Cameroon. The amount of the order was not divulged but delivery is scheduled for the second half of 2014.

The eight RTG cranes will be equipped with the new Konecranes smarter cabin offering improved ergonomics, visibility and safety. They will also have advanced Konecranes technology such as Autosteering, which keeps the crane on a pre-programmed, straight driving path, and Variable Speed Engine and Diesel Fuel Saver technology. The manufacturer claims that, taken together, these features help to improve operating safety and increase productivity.

The hydraulic-free, 16-wheel RTGs have a lifting capacity of 40 tonnes, stacking 1-over-5 containers high and 7 plus truck lanes wide, and the RTG container positioning systems will be connected to the ports’ Terminal Operating Systems, ensuring correct, real-time container positioning and an accurate inventory. The RTG cranes will also be equipped with remote access technology, thus enabling remote diagnostics for maintenance purposes. Antoine Bosquet, Konecranes’ Sales Director, Port Cranes, region IMEA, commented:

“Our cooperation with Bolloré goes back to 2007, when Bolloré purchased its first RTG for Abidjan Terminal in Ivory Coast. We have delivered thirty five RTG’s to container terminals operated by Bolloré Group in West Africa, and we are very proud to get this new order which will bring the total to forty three. Africa is a growing market for Bolloré and Konecranes. We are delighted to be part of Bolloré’s growth in Africa."

In Sierra Leone however things have not being going so well for Bolloré following some critical remarks in local press. According to these, the group has threatened to cancel the contracts of local companies responsible for the haulage of ore from the London Mining Company site at Marampa to their seaport at Thofayiem in the Port Loko District, which have been in place since October 2012.

The contract has utilised 250 local trucks, many reportedly bought with loans undertaken on the guarantee of continued work, and operated by some 525 local staff working for the hauliers. Following the inception of the contract the haulage rates were reduced from $6.22 to $4.20. The haulage groups say they have been told that unless they conform, their contract will be terminated in October, presumably at the end of a one year agreement.

Local speculation has alleged that European drivers will be imported to take on the work and that Bolloré is against hiring local labour. After reportedly stating that the cut in rates was the province of London Mining, and in line with the ‘international standard’, the General Secretary of Bolloré Africa Logistics, Mr Joseph Lambert, has issued a joint statement together with clients London Mining to refute the allegations. Bolloré have a vested interest in other Sierra Leone infrastructure sectors, principally in the redevelopment of the container handling and bulk and break bulk facilities in the main port of Freetown, for which it received the concessions in 2011 on a twenty five year contract.

The recent statement points out that the Freetown contract is with Freetown Terminal Ltd, the main shareholder of which is the Bolloré group. This is completely separate from the mining work which was originally awarded to SDV and which has now passed into the hands of Bolloré Africa Logistics by change of name.

It goes on to say that London Mining Company at no time threatened to replace local transporters with Bolloré in the haulage of the iron ore. Bolloré was awarded the contract in January 2011 and it had been in operation for nearly a year when subcontracting began as a short-term measure on fixed-term contracts of three months due to the temporary nature of the work.

Furthermore all dealings have been completely transparent regarding the award of haulage contracts and at no time did London Mining misrepresent the facts to any contractor. The companies continue on to say they have no reservations regarding contracting to locals provided the equipment is up to the necessary standards and that 97% of the staff, including drivers, presently employed by Bolloré under the haulage contract are mainly locals from the Lunsar region. Total employed is envisaged to increase to 245 local staff by the end of the year.

London Mining says the importance of the French company cannot be underestimated as it is a company of international repute in running such major operations and therefore needed to maintain what is a complex operation an experienced and ready organised establishment to run.

Photo: Port of Douala, Cameroon.