THE BIRTH OF A GREAT MODERN PORT
Ideally located at the heart of the Gulf of Guinea, almost equidistant from Cameroun and Senegal, the Ivory Coast has a coast line of approximately 500 kilometers. Its sandy and rectilinear coast “is harried” by the bar, this is a surge of the swell being formed at a distance from 80 to 100 meters and which upon breaking on the shore renders the coasts particularly difficult of access.
All along the littoral is an extension of a vast network of lagoons separated from the sea by the “seawall” and towards which flow the various rivers which/that irrigate the country.
Open roadstead and wharves
In the fifteenth century, trade began between Europeans and the indigenous people of what has now become Côte d’Ivoire. These exchanges first took place on roadsteads and continued later (from the 20th century), on wharves that provided more security.
Thus, several wharfs were built on the coasts of Côte d’Ivoire during first half of the 20th century:
- The first wharf, in Grand-Bassam in 1901 ;
- The second wharf again in Grand-Bassam en1923;
- The 3rd wharf in Port-Bouët in 1931; ;
- The 4th wharf in Sassandra in 1951.
Through these wharves all the maritime exchanges were carried out in Côte d’Ivoire until the opening of the Vridi canal and the commissioning of Port of Abidjan. Some of these wharves, such as the one in Sassandra, remained in operation for several years even after the opening of the Port.
Over the years, due to the continuous growth of trade between Europeans and the indigenous people, and due to the difficulty of handling heavy loads, the need for a full fledge Port was already real before the completion of the different wharves. In addition, even if wharves facilitated the handling of goods, they did not completely eliminate the risks arising from sea conditions.
Thus, towards the end of the 19th century, research had been initiated to determine the best location of the future Port.
Choice of the location of the Port
Studies were conducted along the coast as early as 1892 under the direction of Treich-Laplène and Binger.
Several other studies were undertaken after those conducted by Marchand in 1896, and that of Captains Houdaille, Thomas and Crosson-Duplessis in 1898.
These various studies explored the regions of :
- Grand-Bassam ;
- The Sassandra harbour ;
Finally, and in accordance with the conclusions of the Crosson-Duplessis study, Abidjan was selected to be at the same time the site of the future Port and the bridgehead of the Abidjan-Niger railroad.
New studies were still carried out in order to determine the exact site of the future Port and in particular a more adapted place for boring of the offshore bar .
Later, the first attempts at boring of the littoral which took place in the West of Port-Bouët (close to Petit-Bassam) in 1906 and 1907 ended up with failures, the open channels being immediately filled up again by sand currents.
As a result of these failures, several other projects were proposed by different engineers between 1909 and 1929, but none of them could not satisfactorily resolve the issue of cutting the canal.
In 1932 and 1933 Roger Pelnard-Considère a civil engineer proposed a project that was welcomed by French colonial authorities. The project underwent experimentation on a scale model at DELFT, a Dutch laboratory before being definitively approved in December 1935.
Construction of the Port of Abidjan
After the approval of the project by Roger Pelnard-Considère, the contract for the work of the Vridi canal was awarded to a consortium of companies in 1936. But the actual work only began in 1938. They continued under the successive authority of the following Directors of Civil Engineering Levy, Pelnard-Considère, Pilot, Pougnaud, Vernisse and Jean Miller. It is the latter who completed work and later became the first managing director of the Port of Abidjan.
The works comprised the dredging of the canal, the construction of two piers at sea for the protection of the harbour channel against sand currents, the building of protected banks out of ripraps and that of brushwood mattresses ballasted of ripraps for the protection of the seabeds.
The digging of the canal was simultaneously done on the sea side sea and on the lagoon side. This allowed the introduction, from 1948, of the sea side called the outer harbour to relieve the economy, which was then close to asphyxiation because of the saturation of the wharves of Grand -Bassam and Port-Bouët.
The construction work of the canal, somewhat slowed down during the Second World War, was nevertheless continued until July 23, 1950, date on which one the last “stopper” of the Vridi canal was blasted, putting in communication the waters of the Ebrié lagoon and those of the Atlantic Ocean.
With the opening to the navigation of the Vridi canal, the Port of Abidjan was born. The first ship to take the Vridi canal was the 'MARIE DOMINIQUE"and the first deep sea ship was the "VOLTA». The Port of Abidjan was officially inaugurated on February 5, 1951 by Mr. François Mitterrand, then French Minister for the overseas territories.