Sogester – First Port of Call

We learn how Sogester is being developed to meet the needs of modern port-users.

Sogester, or Sociedade Gestora de Terminais S.A., is a joint venture between APM Terminals, who owns 51% of the share capital, and the Gestor de Fundos of Angola. Sogester is one of two container terminals operating from Port of Luanda.

In 2007 Gestor de Fundos and APM Terminals created this joint venture to run the terminal for a 20 years concession with an option to extend for five years more,” explains Managing Director Frans Jol.

When the joint venture took over the concession, there was already a great deal of work to do.

“During those days delays in vessel operation were up to 26 days and every day at least 30 vessels were waiting,” Jol recalls. “Productivity was below three moves per hour on vessels cranes, there was no infrastructure, no nothing.”

Sogester stepped in to provide services at the level of loading, unloading and storage of containers. The business has become an influential part of the infrastructure connecting Angola to the global logistics chain.

“Today we offer a professionally operated container terminal with the largest mobile harbour crane in APMT worldwide and the largest in Africa,” says Jol. “New Liebherr 800 crane can handle vessels up to 23 rows outreach, or 19.000 TEUs, subject to the draft. During 13 years of operations, we have had no fatal accidents or major accidents.”

Since taking over the concession, Sogester has transformed the terminal into a completely modern facility.

“All operations are carried out under fully computerised systems, with payments and cargo release being carried out via electronic solutions including customs and banks,” Jol says.

An Ambitious Development

This has been achieved through a lengthy investment process over 25-30 million Euros over the last two and a half years, and those investments are continuing today through infrastructure upgrades across Sogester Luanda and Namibe. These investments are made with the customer in mind, ensuring the ability to continue serving them efficiently. Last year Sogester Luanda introduced new equipment and infrastructure valued at $25 Million.

“During the past two and a half years we have installed the largest MHC Liebherr 800 crane and refurbishing all other seven cranes step-by-step, as well as six new reach stackers Liebherr, eight new terminal chassis Houcon, and eight new spreaders for twin lift full operation from RAM,” explains Jol.

This crane is the first in any African port, ensuring operational efficiency and benefits to all shipping lines calling at Sogester’s ports. There was also been a major upgrade to Luanda’s Information Technology.

“We installed new network equipment, digital radio system and a complete upgrade of IT systems in Sogester,” Jol tells us. “We started maintenance works in the terminal, including buildings, gates, maintenance building, washing facilities for driving equipment and unique washing area for the large mobile harbour cranes.”

Throughout the Luanda upgrade, the cornerstone of Sogester’s operations has been safety, that is why for over 13 years there have been exactly zero fatal or large accidents. Together with a new CCTV system in place which has a full coverage of the terminal area, Sogester continues to provide high levels of safety and security for its employees and customers.

These safety precautions are extended to Namibe, the third-largest port in Angola as well as the only gateway to the South of Angola, there were extensive infrastructure upgrades in 2019 centred around granite exports. Namibe has already seen the installation of a new Solvo operations system and financial IFS-10, which will also be live on September 1st 2020.

Today Sogester terminal is 800 metres in length with a new yard and stacking areas, refurbished equipment and has undergone a complete maintenance and cleaning period during the last two and a half years.

While COVID-19 has delayed matters, this year will also see the installation and operation of a new loading machine to load 20+ ton granite blocks into containers. It will be fully automated and the complete operation will take less than 15 minutes per container.

These upgrades have partially been a response to the changes in vessel size in Luanda from a range of up to 4,000 TEU to 11.889 TEU vessels.

“In our neighbouring terminals, we were seeing waiting times of six to twelve hours to pick up containers from the terminal and regular vessel delays,” Jol says. “We had to be better.”

Jol continues, “Angola has old port structure, no electricity, water or railways in the port area. This all needed to be upgraded, one by one.”

Rebuilding a Country

Of course, upgrades of this scale are not achieved easily, and Jol is the first to say there have been challenges along the way.

“In the past, it was acquiring people with the knowledge we needed,” he says. “This was solved by bringing in up to 36 ex-pats to run the port. Currently, we only have three ex-pats. The rest of our staff are trained local managers and the workforce.”

As well as human resources, there have also been other challenges, not just for Sogester, but the Angolan economy as a whole.

“Currency and FX payments have been and remain huge problems,” Jol admits. “Angola only imports cargo in Luanda, which means everything must come from outside the country. After the golden years when it was noticed that Luanda was the most expensive country in the world for years for ex-pats, the situation has changed and to get permission to pay outside from the central bank is more and more complicated. There is no active real Masterplan by the government. This slows down all development. With new ministers coming in who are younger and studied outside Angola there is a hope that the President will bring a change in the current policy. Angola has oil, diamonds, gold, cobalt and granite, fish and bananas and before the war, the country was the biggest exporter for coffee. this has to be rebuilt but steps are set to do in the coming years.”

Talking to Jol it is clear he believes Sogester can play an important part in that rebuilding.

He is proud of the role Sogester has played in the country through its social responsibility schemes. Today the company has five major ongoing CSR projects. These projects include a school in Panguila, Luanda, where Sogester helped convert a 25 children school to a school with capacity for over 800 students, including training on hygiene and computer classes, an orphanage where Sogester provided clean water, toilets and a connected school, and hospital projects where Sogester has built rooms for families, doctors and patients, a pharmacy, kitchen. Sogester also supplied the hospital with all the equipment it needed for brain operations, making it the only hospital in Angola with that capability. Sogester has achieved these projects with sponsors such as Liebherr, Solvo, Ram, Aqua Del Sul, and ICC.

Through the important work Sogester is doing, and the CSR projects that work informs, the future of Angola is looking brighter all the time.

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