By Mohammed Alamin (Bloomberg) Sudan’s state shipping company is considering a Chinese offer to revamp a fleet that’s shrunk to just one boat as the African nation targets a boost in exports to help salvage the economy.
The proposal from state-owned China COSCO Shipping comes as authorities talk with the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. and other potential foreign investors on ways to resurrect Sudan Shipping Line, Chairman Abdul-Azim Hasab Al-Rasol said in an interview in the capital, Khartoum. He didn’t give further details on the negotiations.
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The dueling U.S.-China talks are yet another sign of a tussle for influence in Africa, where Beijing has made major investments as part of the Belt and Road Initiative and inflows into the continent have eclipsed the U.S.
China COSCO didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment sent Monday, a public holiday.
For Sudan, the revival plans would be part of an ambitious overhaul mooted for infrastructure and the transport sector in the wake of the 2019 revolt that ousted long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir. The transitional government is racing to rebuild an economy ravaged by decades of mismanagement and sanctions. The U.S. lifted its nearly three-decade designation of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism last year.
Sudan relies on other lines to deliver vital fuel, wheat and fertilizer supplies to its Red Sea ports, and “our national shipping carrier can help the country save a lot of hard currency if we give it exclusive rights to transport all exports and imports,” Al-Rasol said.
Port Exports Climb
After several years of contractions, Sudanese gross domestic product is on track to grow 0.4% in 2021, according to the International Monetary Fund. Exports climbed almost 70% to reach $2.53 billion in the first half of the year, central bank data showed last week.
Al-Rosal said restoring Sudan Shipping Line, founded about six decades ago and briefly a joint venture with the former Yugoslavia, will be a “long and difficult process.” Its sole remaining vessel is a passenger ship that’s been out of service for two years.
The country lost three-quarters of its oil reserves with the 2011 secession of South Sudan and the chairman didn’t say whether the company would seek to ship the landlocked south’s oil, which arrives at Port Sudan via pipelines before being transported to world markets.
Sudan Shipping Line’s short-term plan is to lease ships and purchase them in five to 10 years. Lloyd’s Register is also conducting a study on how the line can reconstitute a full fleet, Al-Rosal said.
Sudan’s ports are also seeing Chinese interest. China Harbour Engineering is competing with DP World and an unidentified Qatari company to take roles in the management and development of facilities on the strategically located coastline.
Sudanese authorities have already enlisted Lufthansa Consulting GmbH to assist in the restructuring of Sudan Airways, one of Africa’s oldest carriers. They’re also planning a $640 million rebuilding of the country’s shattered railway network that may include Chinese assistance.
–With assistance from Alfred Cang and Paul Richardson.© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.
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