Bollore aims to double Abidjan port container capacity by 2015
* Ivory Coast pushing infrastructure investment
* Bollore plans to add four cranes at container port
By Loucoumane Coulibaly
ABIDJAN, Oct 4 (Reuters) - French industrial conglomerate Bollore plans to spend up to $79 million by 2015 to double capacity at the container terminal it manages at Ivory Coast's main port of Abidjan, the head of the group's Africa division said.
Once an economic motor for French-speaking West Africa, Ivory Coast is recovering from a decade of political turmoil and has launched an ambitious development plan focused heavily on renewing long-neglected infrastructure.
"We will again make a significant investment to double the capacity to process ships...We plan to invest 35 to 40 billion CFA francs ($79.30 million)," Dominique Lafont told journalists in Abidjan on Thursday.
Lafont said Bollore has already invested about 54 billion CFA francs in Abidjan's container terminal since the start of its partnership with the port in 2004.
New upgrades will include four new cranes, which will permit the simultaneous servicing of three ships.
The improvements are expected to increase the terminal's transit capacity from 800,000 of the 20-foot containers per year to 1.5 million containers.
The port is already one of the region's principal shipping hubs. The bulk of top grower Ivory Coast's cocoa exports passes through Abidjan, as do around 60 percent of goods entering and exiting land-locked Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.
However, Abidjan lost ground to regional competitors over the past decade due to an intermittent conflict that discouraged outside investments and froze development until it ended after a brief war last year.
The port authority opened bidding in June for the construction and management of a second container terminal with a 1.5 million container capacity expected to be completed in 2016.
Around 20 shipping companies, including AP Moller , MSC and France's CMA-CGM , submitted bids, company and port officials said in July.
"We are now studying the bids of the different candidates," Transportation Minister Gaoussou Toure said on Thursday.
Ivory Coast's second port of San Pedro, a leading export point for cocoa beans, announced earlier this year that it is seeking $230 million from private investors connected to the Port of Antwerp International to fund expansion plans. ($1 = 504.3880 CFA francs)
(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Joe Bavier and David Lewis; Editing by Anthony Barker)
Keywords: IVORYCOAST BOLLORE/PORT