The CEO of Seychelles Port Authority (SPA) has built a high-performance team that has received international recognition for the way it has boosted cargo traffic and the cruise liner sector as far as they can go with the current facilities available. Now Col. Andre Ciseau is preparing to take the organization to the next level thanks to a major development to expand Port Victoria and create a new transshipment hub in the Indian Ocean
What can you tell us about the planned $41 million expansion and modernization of the port, and what are the objectives of the project?
This will be a milestone for Seychelles and economic growth in our country. If you look at the amount of trade there is between Asia and Africa, we believe that being in the middle, with a better port and improved infrastructure, we can take a fair share of those transactions. Phase one is the construction of the quay, which is 600 meters long and 40 meters wide, and phase two is the dredging of the approach channel and the turning basin to minus 15 meters. Our objectives are to reduce the turnaround time for ships in Victoria, increase trading volumes and to become a kind of transport hub for the region because once we can receive larger vessels with a bigger draft, we will have a new advantage and change the pattern of ships’ movements in the area.
What opportunities exist for Chinese contractors to participate in the work?
The project will be put up for international tender, whereby any company can bid. We know that the Chinese offer competitive conditions and have all the technical ability for construction and the handling of cargo. There is definitely an opportunity for them to get involved in this great opportunity for Seychelles. We hope that the design of the project will be put up for international tender sometime in 2018. Then the next stage will be the tender for the construction of the quay in early 2020, and we hope that that construction and the dredging will not take more than three years.
How would the port expansion impact the economic competitiveness and growth of Seychelles?
It is said that a port is the gateway to the economy of any country, and we have contributed to the continuous growth that our national economy has enjoyed. However, we believe that once we have a modern port, this will be increased. We will bring in more and larger vessels, which will open the way to becoming a transshipment center. We will create additional land by dredging and backfilling to increase the size of an artificial island in the port area, which will make extra space for increased container traffic. I believe it will create an opportunity for some companies to consider using Port Victoria as a transshipment hub – especially for the movement of goods from Asia to Africa and to the Indian Ocean islands that lie south of Seychelles. The expanded port also means further opportunities for anyone who wants to come and set up a cargo handling company in the new facilities.
What is your outlook for Seychelles’ role as a geographic link in Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure development initiative?
We are strategically located. We are open for business 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and have modern communication systems, so of course, we can be the next platform for business as part of the new Maritime Silk Road.
What plans do you have to expand in terms of international business?
We’ve been doing very well in terms of cruise ships in the region thanks to partnerships we have developed with other islands in the Indian Ocean. Now we want to extend that to Africa; we have recently registered the brand Cruise Africa here in Seychelles. The strategy is to increase the number of cruises to Africa, and we also want to connect with the landlocked countries via the great lakes. We plan to develop this as a special part of the whole business along with Fly Cruise, a business that connects those landlocked countries. So, in terms of international business, we’re doing well with Indian Ocean islands and Africa. We also have a sister-ship agreement with ports in Europe. I think this is the right moment to connect with Asia through sister-ship agreements and exchange programs. For example, we send some of our officers to Asia to study, especially port management training in Singapore and Ningbo Port in China.
Seychelles has won the Indian Ocean’s Leading Cruise Destination at the World Travel Awards for the last five years. What has led to this success, and what are the port’s competitive advantages for cruises?
Much of the success derives from the partnerships that exist between the port authorities and the private service providers, who are experts in their field, as well as the strong collaboration between the port authority, the Tourism Ministry, the Seychelles Tourism Board, and management companies that work in the tourism sector. The collaboration extends to the port authorities of other Indian Ocean islands; we work together, not as competitors. And now we want to take this idea to the African market because we believe there is much to gain by working together. Right now we are at capacity, but once we have the expanded facilities, we will definitely move to the next level by boosting our marketing and bringing more and bigger cruise ships to Victoria, including Asian cruise liners. We are already marketing and moving towards that plan, so we will have created demand by the time the new port is ready.
What economic benefits will the expanded port bring to the country?
One of the objectives of this investment is to bring down the cost of living. This will be the case because there will be a change in the way shipping is organized. Some ships bypass Port Victoria now, but they will have no reason to do so in the future, so the cargo we buy will reach us more quickly. This is especially important for fresh produce. We are talking to the Seychelles Trading Company about the positioning of warehouses and a cold store in the new port development.
How satisfied are you personally with the work done so far at SPA, and what are your ambitions for the future?
I am satisfied that we are an all-local Seychellois team, we have been together for several years, and this is why we have achieved success. There are the cruise awards and we have been recognized by the Port Management Association of Eastern and Southern Africa as one of the most efficient in the region. I have also been recognized personally for my strategic development of Port Victoria. This is a giant leap forward for the Seychelles Port Authority and for the Seychellois people in general because the objective, which is none other than to reduce the cost of living across the country by modernizing Port Victoria, will be a great achievement for Seychelles. We are confident that it will happen.