French firm sees 1st cocoa ship in Ivory Coast Tuesday


French container shipping group CMA CGM said its first ship would arrive in top cocoa producer Ivory Coast in a step toward resumption of the cocoa trade in the West African country.

The shipping company had previously said its first ship was likely to arrive in Ivory Coast on Monday.

Freight operators have been expecting export activity from Ivory Coast to resume this week after being halted by a political crisis that culminated in the arrest last week of incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo, Reuters reports.

The French firm said in an emailed statement on Monday that CMA CGM Rabat would call at the port of Abidjan on Tuesday, followed on Wednesday by the Rosa Delmas and on Thursday by the CMA CGM Cortes.

The company said all its ships can load with cocoa.

Port officials and shipping sources in Ivory Coast reported that activity was slowly resuming at Abidjan port, although cocoa loadings were not yet underway.
“The port (Abidjan) reopened on Saturday, and two tankers berthed on Saturday,” a ship insurance agent said. “The terminal has started to operate, and the first ship was loaded on Saturday with fruit — bananas and pineapple.”

A port official said he had returned to his desk on Monday.
“I am back at work, and other people are gradually returning. But I have got to say it’s pretty slow,” the official said.

The arrest of Gbagbo has opened the way for the resumption of shipping, with the lifting of European Union sanctions and of an export ban called by Alassane Ouattara, the rival leader who was widely seen as the winner of recent elections.

Cocoa industry players said, however, a full resumption would take a few days at least, citing as a major hurdle that banks in the city are still closed and that some have had their IT networks damaged or tampered with.