October 24, 2017 By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma
A meeting of port Management of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA) technical committees for ‘’Maritime safety, security, marine environment protection and operations (MSEPO), Technical Studies and Infrastructure Development (TSID) and Liaison Officers (LO)’’has commenced yesterday at the Bintumani Hotel, Aberdeen in Freetown.
Speaking during the opening ceremony of the four-day conference, General Manager -Sierra Leone Ports Authority (SLPA), Abu B. Bangura, said the meeting was historic to PMAWCA as it was in Freetown that it was inaugurated in November, 1972, under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), as a specialized agency for maritime Organization of West and Central Africa (MOWCA).
‘’The baby that was conceived and born in Sierra Leone is now 45 years old, has sojourned throughout West and Central Africa and has finally returned to the land of birth,” he said.
The SLPA boss said PMAWCA at 45 has gotten stronger through the years, stating that the organisation still upholds her founding objectives to improve, coordinate and standardize equipment and services of ports and harbours in order to increase their efficiency in relation to ships and other forms of transportation in West and Central Africa, enhance, with the participation of other ports and harbour authorities.
‘’In recent past, a need assessment study was undertaken at the Freetown port by experts from the Ghana Ports Authority and the Nigeria ports Authority. Those studies were facilitated by the PMAWCA as its fundamental objectives to improve port services for her member ports. Reports were submitted through the Association’s secretariat and the Sierra Leone Ports Authority is working towards that direction,’’ he narrated.
He revealed that the port has been transformed from a service to landlord port, where core port operations have been commenced to private operators.
Secretary General of the PMAWCA, Michael Luguje, said the organisation has over the years delivered on its mandate as a prime platform for member ports to share knowledge, learn lessons from best practices, leverage on internal expertise to build both technical and institutional capacities in order to improve on port service delivery to ship, shippers and ancillary port users.
“We have worked on achieving this objective through flagship training activities, self-help programmes, bilateral and multilateral cooperation initiatives among other member ports and improved working practices of our technical committees, which are at the forefront of our knowledge learning and sharing initiative,” he said.
The PMAWCA Secretary General said in the last 5 years, they have embarked on comprehensive institutional reforms which have been combined to reposition it as a body of reference in Africa.
He said the purpose of the conference was to discuss port and maritime issues bordering on the association’s membership, stating that that was the appropriate forum for such deliberations on how the ports in the sub region can adopt contemporary trends in port and maritime management.
Giving the Keynote address, Minister of Transport and Aviation, Leonard Balogun Koroma, on the behalf of the president, government and the people of Sierra Leone, welcomed all delegates to Sierra Leone.
‘’Today’s event is strategic. I should say it as we reminiscence the establishment of the association in 1972 in this same country by the Economic Commission for Africa. Today, after 45 years of existence we have seen how this association has devolved and supported the expansion of ports in member states, enabling them to be competitive in the global market. We also see efforts being made in the coordination of activities of its member states,” he said.
The transport Minister said as an association, it has as its mandate to ensure the standardization of ports and harbour equipment and services that would thus result to the efficient services and delivery in West and Central Africa, adding that to ensure the participation of other stakeholders within the sector through sensitization and education.
The Transport Minister further said the association was established to maintain relationship with relevant institutions, associations and international organisations that would create opportunity for experience sharing and dialogue.
He said as a government they have transformed the SLPA both administratively and structurally towards the development of Sierra Leone to fit with current global trend embarking on infrastructural development and expansion of the port.