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FROM OUR CORRESPONDENTAFRICA


month ahead of schedule as an extravagant present to the president on his 69th birthday on June 5. Built alongside a second conference centre constructed by the Chinese, 52 European-style mansions were built to house the continent’s leaders for the two-day summit. A 300-room, five-star, French luxury hotel, part of the Sofitel chain, with a mile of private beach, was shipped in for diplomats and the business community lobbying for contracts on the fringes of the summit. Brazilian chefs flew in with food from around the world to keep the summit well fed. As Africa’s leaders debated the significant problems of the day, excavators were carving a path through the rainforest to create a unique 18-hole golf course winding its way through the jungle. If Sipopo is the symbol of the country’s desire to diversify and impress, it is not an isolated example of Equatorial Guinea’s breakneck race to enter the 21st century. Petro-dollars are being ploughed into the type of construction boom seen in China and the United Arab Emirates. “We have plans to construct more than 150,000 social houses for our people and have invited construction companies from all over the world to take part in this project,” said president Obiang. “I guarantee to the constructors that our government will buy all the finished houses for the people of our country.”


One such example of the leader’s bid to improve the living conditions of the people of this country is the urban village ‘Buena Esperanza’ constructed in the Equatorial Guinean capital Malabo. Entire towns like this one are being shipped in from abroad, as the company relies heavily on imports. Billboards for ExxonMobil, TotalFinaElf, Noble Energy, SocGen, and the Central Bank for Central African States line a three-lane highway from the country’s newly refurbished airport to Malabo II, a modern


The port of Bata


(pictured) is going through a significant upgrade.


state – in Punta Europa, the US energy compound located close to Malabo’s airport. A new train will see the country ship another 3.7 million tonnes of LNG a year, adding valuable dollars to oil royalties of USD3.5 billion a year that are already flowing into the country’s coffers. The country’s main port in Bata offers, more than anywhere, a glimpse into the quantum leap taking place between Equatorial Guinea’s past and future.


extension to the island capital. The billboards, written in Spanish and Chinese, point the way to the country’s multinational future. In the background, near the social houses, luxury condominiums and five-star hotels for corporate frontiersmen in search of new opportunities have also been erected. Trying to keep up with the breakneck changes in the country’s economy are the principal ports of Malabo and Bata, which are both undergoing multi-million dollar facelifts that will enable the country to triple volumes. Investors from different countries are ploughing USD492 million into Astilleros Abayak to make the biggest shipyard and shiprepair facility in the region capable of repairing panamax vessels.


On the other side of the island, the


UK-based Africa specialist Lonrho is creating a port at Luba to cater to offshore contractors such as SBM Offshore NV and Technip, which are setting up shop in preparation for a new wave of offshore exploration that has attracted up to four project cargo vessels a month to the island.


Sociedad Nacional de Gas (Sonagas), the


country’s national gas provider, in association with Marathon Oil Corporation and Noble Energy Inc, is set to construct a second Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) train – a continuous processing unit that condenses natural gas from a gaseous state to a liquid


While the construction industry is sucking in as much as one million tonnes of cement a month, panamax bulk carriers facilitate one of the most primitive of transfers – cement comes in and tree trunks go out. As part of government plans to extend electricity coverage to all homes, hydroelectric energy plants with a capacity of 591 MW are being constructed on the mainland, amongst other things, to feed the construction of a new city, Oyala, which promises to be the ‘Venice of Africa’. Tarmac two-lane highways already link up the country’s main urbanisations of Bata and Mongomo, the western and eastern tips of the country’s 26,000 sq km mainland. As they plough their way through the thick African rainforest they resemble a motorway to the future.


“The country really is the untold success


story of Africa,” said Yury Providion, the Ukrainian naval engineer who arrived in Equatorial Guinea more than 16 years ago with the Panama-based shipping company Kalunga. Today Providion is working as regional supervisor of Spanish-based SJ Marine Ltd, the company elaborating plans to expand the shipyard. “Few other places have progressed as fast as Equatorial Guinea in such a short space of time. It is almost like it has moved from the Stone Age to the 21st century in less than 20 years,” he said. HLPFI


42


September/October 2011


www.heavyliftpfi.com


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