ABC of Maritime Logistics in Africa

Africa enjoys the fastest-growing economy today, and the supply chain is the backbone of that economy but, it is the maritime logistics on the continent that power the economy.

Maritime logistics, or water transportation, is the primary facilitator of import and export across Africa.

Maritime logistics is the gateway for millions of African businesses to touch the world.


What is Maritime Logistics

As much as it may seem, not all supply chain originates from land transportation. Maritime logistics is mostly hidden from the average customer. But for a continent like Africa that mostly depends on imports, it is an essential part of its economy.

Maritime logistics is transporting goods and services through water bodies such as the seas and oceans. In Africa, most goods, from petroleum products to cars and other everyday commodities, are brought into the continent through maritime logistics.

It is the main international trade route for most businesses on the continent.ย  Water transportation is often the middle stage of an intermodal transportation process.

The transportation mode is essential for large volumes of commodities transported over long distances. Maritime logistics is usually facilitated through ships and containers used to protect and differentiate each individual goods.


Components of Maritime Logistics in Africa

There are three major components of Maritime Logistics, they are:

๐๐จ๐ซ๐ญ๐ฌ: These are facilities built at the seashore to connect land and waters for the ship and its goods. Every Vessel leaves or docks at the port, even really small ones.

๐—ฉ๐—ฒ๐˜€๐˜€๐—ฒ๐—น๐˜€: These are vehicles that transport goods and people across the water. They are water vehicles designed to move on water, ranging from small boats to large vessels with thousands of containers.

Water bodies: Large settlement of water. It could be Lakes, Rivers, Seas, and Oceans.


Other components of Maritime Logistics include:


๐—–๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ด๐—ผ ๐—ต๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ๐—น๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด: This process is the loading or unloading of cargo to and fro ships and storage facilities typically located in ports or terminals.

๐—–๐˜‚๐˜€๐˜๐—ผ๐—บ๐˜€ ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ด๐˜‚๐—น๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐˜† ๐—ผ๐—ณ๐—ณ๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ถ๐—ฎ๐—น๐˜€: Because so much of maritime logistics is done internationally; countries have customs and other officials manning their borders to regulate goods entering and leaving their sovereign nations.

๐—™๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ถ๐—ด๐—ต๐˜ ๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐˜„๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ฑ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜€, ๐—ฎ๐—ด๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜๐˜€ ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ฏ๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐—ธ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜€: People and businesses help facilitate the maritime transportation of goods for businesses across the continent. They are popularly known as freight forwarders.


Benefits of Maritime Logistics in Africa

Maritime logistics is unlike other modes of transportation. Here are some benefits to it.


1. International Trade

Maritime logistics is the chief facilitator of international trade across the continent. It connects Africa to the rest of the world and enables trade and logistics between countries in Africa and their international trading partners.

2. Large Volumes Shipment

Maritime logistics enables easy transportation of large volumes of goods compared to other modes of transportation. A single vessel may carry thousands of containers containing millions of products in a single journey.

3. Cost Effective

Imagine transporting a single container by road using a truck from Accra to London. The cost implications of that would be astronomical.

However, you can transport tens and thousands of the same container through water for the same or a fraction of the price. The bottom line is maritime logistics offers a cost-effective mode of transportation.

4. Safety

Although Air transport is the safest mode of transportation statistically speaking, water transport is a very close second. However, there are more chances of survival in a ship or vessel.

This is because there are emergency boats and robust evacuation plans.

Maritime logistics also enables large volumes of dangerous goods to be transported safely without worrying about impacting lives during an accident.

5. Sustainable Transportation

In a world where sustainability practices are increasingly demanded, maritime logistics provides a key method of reducing carbon footprints while effectively transporting goods to consumers and businesses.


Challenges of Maritime Logistics

Although there are substantial benefits to maritime logistics on the continent, it is also subject to a few challenges.


1. Infrastructure Deficit

Several ports across Africa are underdeveloped and overwhelmed. It can sometimes be a nightmare to receive goods in a country or send them out due to container congestion.

Many ports are far behind schedule, leading to supply chain disruptions or increased lead times and expenses.

2. Corruption

There is a high level of corruption amongst port officials, which also complicates processes. This leads to inefficiencies and loss of revenue for businesses.

Many times crippling smaller businesses. Corruption is usually encouraged to avoid paying the necessary tariffs and taxes. Many times, it is also done for preferential treatment.

3. Bad Policies

Many African countries suffer from out-of-touch policies, which often manifest themselves in state infrastructure such as the seaports. This could be an overly complicated process with huge tariffs and taxes.

It is often easier for businesses to pay bribes than go through the regular process, which makes it challenging to track what is entering or leaving that country.

4. Security

Maritime logistics in Africa faces a substantial amount of threats across the board. Whether it is piracy, smuggling, or human trafficking, serious security concerns make businesses invest in private security, leading to increased costs.

5. Landlocked Countries

About a third of landlocked countries across the globe are found in Africa. Landlocked countries depend on neighbouring countries and ports to facilitate trade in these countries, which causes delays and increases the cost of receiving goods for each of these countries.


Best Practices for Maritime Logistics in Africa

These are tips on how governments and businesses can improve Maritime logistics in Africa.


1. Invest and Maintain Port Infrastructure

Investing in infrastructures that support the economy greatly impacts how it functions in the long run. Maritime is a big part of the African economy, and it makes sense for governments to invest in their port infrastructure.

This is because it will greatly facilitate the processing of goods in the ports, clear congestion, and improve import and exportation rates.

2. Review Policies

Itโ€™s time for African governments to review their port policies, and a great place to start will be at the ports. Review policies, simplify the processes, and curb corruption across the ports.

This will encourage businesses to do more, bringing in more money for the government.

3. Integrate Technology

Technology has always been great for simplifying speeding up across different industries. It has the potential to do the same in Africa.

Tech solutions like RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) and data analytics can improve tracking visibility and optimize operations in ports across Africa.

4. Collaboration Between Government and the Private Sector

To enhance the port’s operations, governments across Africa can collaborate with businesses in the private sector to integrate tech solutions, drive suitable investments, decongest ports, and implement resilient measures.

As a part of collaboration, governments can explore the PPP (private-public partnership) to finance, manage, and introduce expertise to port operations.

5. Customer-Centric Approach

Business institutions tend to do better compared to government institutions. This is true for processes and outputs. And it is because businesses tend to take a customer-centricย approach.

Ports across Africa can implement the same approach into their day-to-day operations. It will lead to reliability, efficiency, and transparency. All culminating in excellent service.

6. Training and Development

Many of the staff operating the African ports do not have the necessary or sufficient training, leading to a breakdown of operation.

There should be an investment in extensive training and development of these staff. Training and development will also help curb part of the corruption going on across these ports.

7. Risk Management

Covid-19 caused a lot of disruption in the ports across Africa. Developing risk mitigation strategies that can help with natural disasters or political instability is important to avoid disruptions.


Maritime Logistics in Africa: Tips for Choosing the Right Shipping Carriers or Lines.

๐Ÿญ. ๐—จ๐—ป๐—ฑ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜€๐˜๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ฌ๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ฟ ๐—ฆ๐—ต๐—ถ๐—ฝ๐—ฝ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ฃ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ฒ๐˜€: Consider the type of cargo you’re transporting, the amount, the frequency of shipments, and the destinations.

๐Ÿฎ. ๐—˜๐˜ƒ๐—ฎ๐—น๐˜‚๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ฒ ๐—”๐˜ƒ๐—ฎ๐—ถ๐—น๐—ฎ๐—ฏ๐—น๐—ฒ ๐—–๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜€: Conduct extensive research and source quality carriers with a substantial African presence and a track record of reliability.

๐Ÿฏ. ๐—ฉ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐—ณ๐˜† ๐—ฆ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜ƒ๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ฒ ๐—–๐—ผ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ด๐—ฒ: Check to see if they have a broad reach that covers your shipping routes and can efficiently serve your consumers.

๐Ÿฐ. ๐—˜๐˜…๐—ฎ๐—บ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ฒ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—ฆ๐—ฎ๐—ณ๐—ฒ๐˜๐˜† ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ฆ๐—ฒ๐—ฐ๐˜‚๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐˜๐˜† ๐— ๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐˜€๐˜‚๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐˜€: Safety and security are paramount. Ensures that carriers are safety cognizant and have a track record of safety.

๐Ÿฑ. ๐—–๐—ผ๐—ป๐˜€๐—ถ๐—ฑ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐˜๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐˜€๐—ถ๐˜ ๐˜๐—ถ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐˜€: Examine transit times for various carriers and routes. Select carriers that satisfy your delivery schedules while considering cargo type and shipment mode.

๐Ÿฒ. ๐—–๐—ผ๐˜€๐˜ ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ฃ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ฒ: Request and compare precise pricing estimates from carriers. Make certain that you get transparent pricing that is within your budget.

๐Ÿณ. ๐—–๐—ผ๐—ป๐˜๐—ฎ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—˜๐—พ๐˜‚๐—ถ๐—ฝ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜ ๐—”๐˜ƒ๐—ฎ๐—ถ๐—น๐—ฎ๐—ฏ๐—ถ๐—น๐—ถ๐˜๐˜†: Confirm that carriers have availability for the container types and sizes required for your goods.

๐Ÿด. ๐—–๐˜‚๐˜€๐˜๐—ผ๐—บ๐˜€ ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐——๐—ผ๐—ฐ๐˜‚๐—บ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐—ฆ๐˜‚๐—ฝ๐—ฝ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐˜: Confirm that transporters are familiar with African customs and their processes. Select carriers who can help with documentation and clearance procedures.

๐Ÿต. ๐—ฅ๐—ฒ๐—ณ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ฒ๐˜€ ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ง๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ฐ๐—ธ ๐—ฅ๐—ฒ๐—ฐ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ฑ: Request references from other businesses that have used the carrier’s services. Positive comments and a proven track record are signs of dependability.

๐Ÿญ๐Ÿฌ. ๐—ง๐—ฒ๐—ฐ๐—ต๐—ป๐—ผ๐—น๐—ผ๐—ด๐˜† ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ง๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ฐ๐—ธ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐˜€๐˜†๐˜€๐˜๐—ฒ๐—บ๐˜€: Select carriers that provide modern technology solutions, like online tracking systems, to give you real-time visibility into the progress of your shipments.


FAQs on Maritime Logistics in Africa


Q1. What are Africa’s major ports?

Africa’s coastline is dotted with ports. Ports of great importance include the Port of Durban in South Africa, the Port of Mombasa in Kenya, the Port of Lagos in Nigeria, the Port of Djibouti, and the Port of Tangier in Morocco.


Q2. How can I track cargo movement in African ports?

Many African ports provide internet tracking through their websites. You can also track goods via shipping line websites or by contacting the port’s customer care or customs authorities.


Q3: What are the environmental problems in African marine logistics?

Pollution from shipping activities, oil spills, overfishing, and the influence of port operations on marine ecosystems are all environmental concerns. Sustainability initiatives address these challenges.


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