Swiss giant in talks to manage planned N$5 billion port terminal

A subsidiary of the Mediterranean Shipping Company S.A (branded as MSC), an international shipping line founded by Gianluigi Aponte in Italy in 1970 and headquartered in Switzerland is engaged in talks with the Namibian Ports Authority (Namport) and the Port of Antwerp-Bruges to manage their planned N$5 billion hydrogen and ammonia export terminal.

The export terminal is envisaged to be completed in the next three to five years and will be stationed at Namibia’s Port of Walvis Bay.

Although Business Express was not able to confirm if the MSC subsidiary in question is Terminal Investment Limited (TIL), a source that refused to be named said it was likely to be TIL as Namport already has a port management deal with the entity.

In 2022, TIL was awarded the management of the new container terminal in the port of Walvis Bay, Namibia, which became operational at the end of summer 2019. This MSC subsidiary was only founded in 2000 and reportedly has interest in more than 60 terminals.

MSC is arguably the world’s largest container shipping company by both fleet size and cargo capacity, controlling about 19.7 percent of the global container ship fleet.

As of November 2023, MSC operates over 790 container vessels with an intake capacity of 5,505,417 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU). Other MSC subsidiaries operate rail freight transport in Portugal and Spain, cruise ships, and cargo aircraft.

The development of a hydrogen and ammonia export terminal heralds another significant step in a long line of cooperation agreements between Namibia’s port authority and the Belgium port complex.

In June 2022, Namport announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with its European partners.

Namport said at the time that “the purpose of the MoU is to allow all parties involved to explore the potential for a broad scope of collaboration and further discover and discuss the possibilities of long-term cooperation”.

That “long-term cooperation” now appears to have significantly boosted Namibia’s fast-developing green energy sector alongside its industry-related logistical hub development plans.

Bloomberg reports that the facility, which will be equally owned by the Port of Antwerp and the Namibian Ports Authority, will be built at a greenfield site near the existing port site, which includes a container terminal.

It will store and ship hydrogen and a derivative, ammonia, produced by companies including Belgium’s Cie Maritime Belge SA.

The aim is to refuel passing ships and transport ammonia for use in heavy industry clusters in Belgium, Germany, and elsewhere in Europe, which are struggling to reduce their carbon emissions and aren’t suitable for conversion to renewable electricity.

Namibia can serve “as a production hub of green molecules and Antwerp-Bruges as a gateway to serve the European market”, Namport and Port of Antwerp said in a recent statement.

European industry needs “alternatives to electrons – you can’t electrify,” all processes, Antwerp port CEO Jacques Vandermeiren said in an interview near Walvis Bay a fortnight ago.

In another groundbreaking initiative, the Port of Antwerp-Bruges, along with Cleanergy and Namport, aims to introduce Africa’s first dual-fuel hydrogen-powered ship. This multifunctional port utility vessel underscores the commitment to innovative and sustainable maritime solutions.

Namport CEO Andrew Kanime described the development as a first step towards “greening” Namibia’s ports.

Cleanergy, in collaboration with local partners, is progressing with the development of Namibia’s first integrated hydrogen production and refueling site at the Port of Walvis Bay. The completion of this facility by the end of this year marks a significant milestone in the region’s hydrogen infrastructure development.

With the hydrogen and ammonia export terminal potentially eligible for EU funding, there is optimism surrounding the financial viability of the project. Moreover, Namibia’s status as a potential exporter of green hydrogen and ammonia to Europe aligns with broader sustainability goals and renewable energy initiatives.

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