Captain Cooke sails again

Apr 12, 2005
Author: P&S

Remember Captain Cooke? Durban’s last port captain (his successors are now known as harbourmasters) is not the sort of man who stays out of the limelight for long.


Captain Derrick Cooke, former port captain of East London and Durban and now in the thick of things in Nigeria – picture Terry Hutson


Cooke departed from the harbour service a few years ago and took up temporary sojourn in the UK before returning to Durban and South Africa where he has established himself as a maritime consultant.

In this guise he was talked into taking on the challenge of bidding for a port terminal in Nigeria, after being headhunted by a Nigerian group that intended playing a role in the concessioning process now underway in the West African country.

Cooke took up the cudgels and in his own inimitable style single-handedly plotted the course ahead, one that has enabled the Nigerian-based ENL Consortium to compete successfully with better known international terminal operators.

During March both Cooke and ENL learned that they had been successful and were the preferred bidder for breakbulk terminals C and D at Lagos – the Danish firm of AP Moller being awarded similar status with the third, a container terminal.

More than 200 companies, including several with South African interests, took part in the initial bidding process for various terminals within Nigeria. This number was later thinned down to something more manageable, leaving a group of hardened experienced operators to fight it out for the remaining ports and terminals. ENL is among these, but in terms of the rules as a successful bidder now has to choose between C and D at Lagos - in the interests of free competition each operator being allowed only one terminal in each port.

Cooke returned to Nigeria at the end of March to prepare for the takeover of the terminal, following the final signing of contracts that were expected at the end of March.

“The authorities wanted us to move in during April but that’s too soon - I’ve advised ENL to insist on three months notice.”

Derrick Cooke is also likely to remain with ENL as general manager, although he says he would prefer to do this for a limited period of 6 or 9 months. After that he hopes to return to Durban and maybe further challenges.


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