Bollore, partners preferred bidder for I.Coast port expansion
* Consortium includes Bollore, Bouygues and Maersk
* 21-year concession requires nearly $600 mln investment
By Joe Bavier
ABIDJAN, March 23 (Reuters) - Ivory Coast has named a consortium of French industrial groups Bollore and Bouygues and Denmark's Maersk as the preferred bidder to operate a new container terminal, an official for one of the companies said.
The West African nation plans to open a second container terminal in the commercial capital Abidjan - one of Africa's busiest ports - as part of a drive to make up ground lost to competitors during a decade-long political crisis.
"This new terminal project will lift the infrastructure of Abidjan for the benefit of the country and its population," said Peder Sondergaard, Africa and Middle East CEO for Maersk's APM Terminals.
"We look forward to working towards developing the project together with the port authority," he said in a statement.
The new terminal will require an investment of 300 billion CFA francs ($594.41 million) over a concession term of 21 years, the statement said.
New construction will include 35 hectares (86 acres) of yard along 1,100 metres of quays and will be able to accommodate ships with a capacity of up to 8,000 20-foot containers (TEU). It is scheduled to open in 2016.
The second terminal will have a transit capacity of 1.5 million TEU per year, adding to the port's current capacity of 800,000 containers.
Once a regional economic powerhouse, Ivory Coast is emerging from a decade of stagnation caused by a 2002 civil war that split the country in two.
The political crisis ended with a second brief armed conflict in 2011. The economy is once again growing, buoyed by heavy investment to renew long-neglected infrastructure.
Growth topped 8.5 percent in 2012, according to the International Monetary Fund, following a 4.7 percent contraction the year before.
The bulk of top grower Ivory Coast's cocoa exports pass through Abidjan, as do around 60 percent of goods entering and exiting land-locked Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.
Bollore subsidiary Bollore Africa Logistics has held the concession for Abidjan's existing container terminal since 2004. It announced plans in October to spend up to $79 million by 2015 to double the terminal's capacity.
($1 = 504.6990 CFA francs) (Editing by James Jukwey)