August 29 - Global engineering, procurement and construction firm Bechtel has created what it describes as a "revolutionary design for ports that could transform shipping in Africa", the Multi-User Offshore Hub.

The innovative Multi-User Offshore Hub is designed for two or more users and consists of an offshore smart terminal and docking system that can accommodate vessels and barges. Bechtel says the hub has the potential to open new market opportunities in Africa by significantly increasing capacity and substantially reducing port construction and operation costs.
"As existing African ports become more and more congested, increased capacity is an urgent need for both the import of consumer goods and the export of minerals," says Marco Pluijm, Bechtel's senior ports specialist. "Each requires out-of-the-box solutions to handle as many containers as efficiently as possible and to speed the provision of new mineral export facilities to enable the region to develop its economy."
The Multi-User Offshore Hub was unveiled at the African Ports Evolution 2013 Forum in Cape Town, South Africa and Pluijm adds: "This solution could provide a reduction of up to 40 percent in port infrastructure construction costs compared with building a traditional port and up to 50 percent in operational cost savings as the hub can handle much larger Capesize and Valemax vessels, which result in economies of scale."
Bechtel is also leading a three-year research project to improve the safety of mooring large ships on the coast of West Africa. Both projects are key to upgrading and expanding African port capacity, says Bechtel.