Port Profile: L I M B E (Cape Limboh) – Cameroon

New Piracy Risk

2019 was a particularly difficult year for the port of Limbe in South-West Cameroon, a region which has been at the heart of a separatist conflict since 2017 and was recently officially declared an economic disaster area.

To make matters worse, two apparently unrelated incidents occurred in Limbe last year.

The latest was the first ever pirate attack against a petrol tanker on 30 December 2019.

Despite a strong army and navy presence due to the threat of separatist attacks, the chemical/oil product tanker, Happy Lady, was attacked at anchorage by six armed men in a speedboat.

One crew member received a bullet in the foot and eight have been kidnapped.

Unlike Douala, the local armed forces do not provide armed guards to vessels at anchorage in Limbe, but in the light of this first pirate attack against a ship, the authorities are reviewing security procedures in the port.

SONARA Oil Terminal and Refinery

Limbe, in the Gulf of Guinea, comprises an oil terminal and refinery owned by the Cameroon state company, SONARA.

On 31st May 2019 at about 21:30 LT, a sudden explosion occurred at the Limbe terminal and this resulted in a serious fire at both the SONARA refinery and the Limbe terminal.  The fire caused significant material damage to the plant.

On 3rd June 2019 at about 10:30 LT, another explosion occurred at the SONARA Terminal followed by thick smoke and fire.  The terminal claims that this was caused by residual combustion from the initial fire.

The incident brought the main production unit of the refinery to a halt and SONARA has issued an official declaration of ‘’Force Majeure’’ temporarily suspending all refinery activities.

To date, although the refinery is at a standstill, the other activities of the company, namely the storage and distribution of clean petroleum products, continue and SONARA continues to supply the local market by using small coastal tankers feeding from Limbe to Douala.


As Limbe is a sea port, disputes with MARPOLauthorities are not as frequent as in Douala whose estuary is surrounded by nature reserves.

However, we would of course, recommend that vessels calling at Limbé comply with MARPOL Resolutions by ensuring appropriate treatment of sewage water to attain permissible parameters, i.e.


·        Ships built prior to 2010: Resolutions MEPC.2 (VI) dd 03 DECEMBER 1976 apply with the following rates:


1.   Fecal Coliforms:   250 mg/100 L 

2.   Suspended solids:  40 to 50 mg/L

3.   BOD5: max 50 mg/L


·        Ships built from 2010: Resolutions MEPC.2 159 (55) apply with the following rates

1.   Fecal Coliforms:   100 mg/100 L 

2.   Suspended solids: max 35 mg/L

3.   BOD5: max 25 mg/L

The fines for pollution are very high, ranging from USD 20,000.00 to USD 100,000.00 (separate fines may be applied for each breach) and prison sentences are also possible.

PSC in Limbe also require various original documents stamped and signed (such as P&I Certificate of entry, H&M insurance certificate).  They do not accept copies or electronic documents.

Vessels calling in Limbe may also experience difficulties with Customs as they also require various documents in original hard copy form e.g.: last port clearance, cargo manifest, Certificate of calibration, Certificate of quality, Certificate of quantity.  Customs fines may amount to the value of the cargo or 3 times this value if Customs consider that an offence has been committed.

Information provided by


Suzanne Moume

Budd Cameroun


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