DISCOVER Magazine #7

16 shallow-draught ferries for Abidjan, Ivory Coast

Published in category: Public Transport

At the end of January 2017, the Société de Transport Lagunaire (STL), a subsidiary of Groupe SNEDAI, began its ferry operations in Abidjan, the economic capital of the Ivory Coast in West Africa. STL is one of two new companies awarded licenses to provide water-based public transport in the city. The award is part of a much wider government programme to reduce congestion and improve air quality by upgrading the transport infrastructure of Abidjan, which, with a population of nearly 5 million people, is the largest French-speaking city in Africa. STL’s stated mission is to transport people and goods safely in accordance with international standards in order to improve the mobility of the population of Abidjan.

A city built on water

Abidjan is ideal for water-based transport with the 100 kilometre long Ébrié lagoon running east-west through the city and beyond in both directions. This waterway has long been a vital part of the city’s economic life, but up until the start of this year, the public transport element had consisted of a government-run monopoly, the Société de transport Abidjan (SOTRA), that had been operating a basic service for nearly 40 years.

However, with the population of Abidjan doubling in just the past five years alone it was no longer considered fit-for-purpose and much of its infrastructure was in urgent need of replacement. So, in January this year the old network was finally closed and the private-public partnership of STL began operations.

Work on the city’s new infrastructure has been going on for 6 years now. New roads and bridges have been built, along with housing and commercial developments. Work is well advanced and the entire programme is expected to be completed by 2020. The new ferry network is intended to make a significant contribution to reducing for many both the time and cost of travelling to and from the city centre, as well as reducing pollution and contributing to the development of tourism around the lagoon. It should also take some of the strain off the improved road network.


Sixteen vessels in 6 months

The first phase of the new ferry network involves the introduction of sixteen new, shallow-draught, passenger ferries, to be delivered during the first half of 2017. These have been designed by Damen and are being built at Damen Shipyards Kozle, in Poland. The vessels are 18-metres in length and have been specified in accordance with the standards of the International Association of Classification Societies. Each will be powered by two Volvo D5 engines and capable of transporting up to 130 passengers at a time, at speeds of up to 10 knots. As well as a high level of security and comfort, specific requirements defined by STL included fuel economy, a maximum air draught of 4 metres and a water draught of 1 metre.

The official launch of the service took place on 29th December 2016 with the presentation of the first two boats to the Abidjan Government, represented by the then Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan together with the Transport Minister Gaoussou Touré. Accompanied by David Fofana, Deputy Managing Director of STL, the official party took a short trip on one of the ferries to sample the experience soon to be enjoyed by many Abidjanis.

Open for business

Commercial operations got underway in mid-January 2017 with the arrival of four more vessels, allowing the start of a viable service around the city centre. Nine routes with ten stops across four zones are planned in total, with the routes ranging from 2.5 to over 12 kilometres in length, and the sixteen ferries will ultimately carry around 30,000 commuters a day with journey times averaging 10 minutes. The remaining ten Damen ferries will be delivered in three batches at eight-week intervals with the last arriving in June. By 2020, STL expects to have 45 ferries of various types in operation providing a range of services to meet an assortment of commercial and leisure needs.


Damen has also supplied STL with eight, 24 x 4 metre mooring pontoons which have been used to construct four ferry stations complete with ticket offices. Delivered in just 10 weeks, they are equipped with fenders, hand rails, lifebuoys and anti-slip ramps, and are also suitable for overnight mooring.

When asked why STL had chosen Damen for the design and supply of their new ferries, David Fofana cited the quality of the vessels, the short delivery times and the smooth overall process, as well as the after-sales support and training that the Damen Shipyards Group will be providing. As well as providing a new, modern form of public transport to the city of Abidjan, STL also expects to have created 500 new jobs by 2019.

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