Luba Freeport is situated on the island of Bioko, which is part of a volcanic chain of islands located in the middle of the Gulf of Guinea. It is a natural deepwater port and oilfield service logistics base, which is strategically located next to several West African countries that border the Atlantic Ocean.
The Gulf of Guinea is home to one of the largest oil and natural gas deposits in the world and the region is experiencing an economic boom.
The port has a natural depth of 10 metres which can be increased to 20 metres with the extension of the quay. There are no other ports in the region which can accommodate the new super container vessels that have a requirement for a 20 metre draught. Luba offers unrestricted marine access at all states of tide.
Howard McDowall, director and general manager of the company said: “Luba Freeport is a gateway to countries like Benin, Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Companies such as Hess, MI, Schlumberger, and Baker Hughes have made use of Luba’s tax and duty-free storage facilities and despatch goods when needed, using coastal vessel, to other countries within the region. This eliminates berthing delays experienced by larger vessels when using other ports in the region.”
Luba is well positioned to support the booming oil industry from Côte d’Ivoire in the north right down to Congo. Low oil prices in 2016 has resulted in less drilling in the region, and this has resulted in a reduced number of vessels berthing at Luba during that period.
Vision of a single location Oil Service Centre
Luba functions as a ‘one stop facility’ in line with the government’s vision to have a single location Oil Service Centre. Vessels that come into the quay can receive fuel, bulk chemicals, water and cargoes without the need to change berths.
Luba Freeport was officially opened in 2003 and a 25-year concession was granted for the land as well as the granting of status as a tax-free zone. An agreement was signed with GEPetrol to assume the government’s interest in the Luba Freeport Ltd. GEPetrol was established as the National Oil Company of Equatorial Guinea.
Lonrho acquired 63% of the shares of Luba in 2006 and are now responsible for the management of the port. They have concluded a joint venture with the government of Equatorial Guinea, which holds 37% of the shares.
Luba operates as an autonomous duty-free zone equipped with its own 24-hour customs and immigration regime and they provide fuel storage and bunkering services. Dockyard facilities include warehousing, storage, workshop, fabrication, repair, and maintenance with the capacity to handle deep water drilling rigs.
Key partnerships with blue chip companies
Over the last decade, Luba has amassed a strong client base of blue chip companies and a strong reputation of providing an efficient quality service. They are known for their quick turnaround times, making port calls more efficient and more economical for their clients.
Mobil Equatorial Guinea Inc (MEGI) has renewed their lease for 70 000 sqm of space making them the largest anchor tenant since 2005. They have erected a world class facility which serves as a base for MEGI and includes warehousing and office space, marine hose storage, an API specification pipe yard, an inspection shed, wash bay and storage area.
The set-up of a fabrication yard in the port was a key project to increase the value proposition of Luba. They signed a 10-year contract with Andron Engineering, which is an international fabrication company with a solid reputation. Andron has plans to develop a 60 000 sqm area with fabrication shops, blasting and paint workshops. They intend to make Luba their West African base, bringing with them the business of Swire Pacific vessels, for whom they act as preferred agents.
The port attracts other big players in the oil industry and provides services to ExxonMobil, Schlumberger, Amerada Hess, M-I Swaco, Noble energy, Marathon, SBM, Baker Hughes, LOTEG, Nalco, Ophir, TLC, Panalpina, Tenaris, PetroSA, AMT and CNOOC.
Investing in the workforce and their well being
Luba believes that the development and transfer of technology throughout their workforce is vital for their success. They have a comprehensive training plan in place and provide numerous courses and training opportunities for their staff.
Local content is prioritised at Luba and they strive to pass on expertise to local employees. The company employs eight Equatoguineans in senior management and a large number in supervisory roles.
To achieve high international standards for quality in all aspects of its business, Luba provided training in Banksman, rigging, helicopter landing procedures, crane and forklift operations, and firefighting. International courses attended by staff include ISPS Code, IMDG, Port facility security officer, and Commercial Port Management.
Their qualified medical staff offer in-house courses on First Response First Aid. Through APAVE they offer internationally recognised course on operating of plant and machinery. In house, vocational training allows skilled staff to pass their knowledge to other team members. Other training concluded was that for security officers.
The health and well-being of their workforce is an important consideration for Luba and they run a fully equipped emergency response clinic which runs 24 hours throughout the year. The clinic is equipped with a laboratory, pharmacy, x-ray facility, consultation room and a two-bed ward.
The company provides a catering facility which boasts an ultra-modern kitchen, refrigerated storage facility, and a restaurant capable of accommodating 135 diners. Meals are prepared to international standards and they serve approximately 85 breakfasts, 130 lunched and 80 dinners daily.
Supporting the local community of Luba with essential services
From the early years of the project, Luba has assisted local authorities in the development and day to day operation of Luba town and the surrounding areas. They assist the local hospital by supplying mosquito nets, providing the assistance of the company doctor, and the use of the company ambulance for emergency evacuations to Malabo. The company also assisted the government with the construction of a new water house and canal system which benefits housing provision in Luba.
In addition, the Luba Freeport’s fire engine and response team are made available 24/7 to respond to fires in the Luba area. Early childhood development is supported through the provision of a building to host a nursery school and, together with the government, the company funds three teachers. The school which is open during the week supports about 118 learners.
Local suppliers are sourced to provide goods and services which includes fruit and vegetables supplied by a former employee who has become a successful entrepreneur.
In support of their policy of protecting the environment, the company provides skips throughout the town of Luba for the disposal of household rubbish. They work with the government to ensure that the skips are collected daily and the company assists in the maintenance of the landfill site and provides education in waste management.
Last year the company participated in a CSR initiative which was identified by the government. It involved the renovation of an old basketball court situated on the campus of a local college. Local contractor, Welding and Fabrication Services EG Ltd was appointed to complete the project to specifications.
Future expansion project
McDowall is confident that Luba Freeport has a good value proposition to increase business in the short to medium term. Two of its biggest advantages to encourage expansion is the fact that the government fully supports the project and the port is not landlocked providing sufficient room and land which was set aside by the government for expansion. Land has been earmarked by the government for the development of an industrial petroleum city which will be serviced by the port. The company has been investing in infrastructure development of the quay. Lonrho has plans to expand the port to meet the growing demands of the oil and gas industry in the region and the West African hub to other industries.
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