Ivory Coast’s cocoa port of San Pedro plans to invest $522 million to expand its terminal, build new quays and enlarge container capacity fivefold in the next few years, the port authority said.

San Pedro handles around half of the average 1.2 million tons of cocoa produced by the world’s top grower each year.

Desire Dallo, the director of the port, told Reuters this week that Switzerland’s privately-owned Mediterranean Shipping Company, the world’s second largest container shipping firm, which runs the port, was expected to put 90 billion CFA francs towards the 260 billion CFA franc ($522 million) project.

It would involve adding two new quays to the existing four and increasing total capacity to 720,000 containers at a time, from its current 120,000, he said at a visit to the port.

“We’re talking about a huge project that will improve (cocoa) supply to the port, but will also increase trade with neighbours like Mali, Guinea and Liberia,” Dallo said.

He added the revamped terminal would be 700 metres long, 15 metres deep with 23 hectares of space on the platform.

“The new terminal will be able to receive some of the world’s biggest ships,” he said.

It would be completed in five to eight years and would handle not only hundreds of thousands of tons of cocoa annually but also coffee and output from iron ore and nickel mining projects expected to come on tap by 2014.

An Ivorian-Lebanese company opened a new cocoa grinding factory that this week started producing about 80 tonnes of cocoa mass a day, from 100 tonnes of beans.

The head of the state mining company told Reuters that Ivory Coast planned to start extracting iron ore and nickel from proven deposits in its west and exporting them via a planned rail link to the port of San Pedro by 2014.

“In the southwest, there is rich untapped potential: nickel mines, iron mines,” Dallo said. “Once they are developed, the port will maximise its potential.” (Reuters)