MPs ratify National Carrier Amendment Act, 2014


By Samuel J. Kargbo & Jariatu Bangura

Members of Parliament yesterday ratified the Sierra Leone National Carrier Amendment Act, with a view to enhancing the direct shipment of goods into the country via the Sierra Leone Ports Authority.

While presenting the bill in Parliament before it was ratified by the bipartisan House, Deputy Minister of Justice, Arrow Bockarie, informed lawmakers that the bill was first laid in Parliament in 2012, but that a clause therein had necessitated an amendment in respect of expunging the requirement for a 10% surtax charge on shipment, which he said discourage business people to ship goods directly to Sierra Leone, but to instead use the port in neighbouring Guinea.

Mr. Bockarie said the Act would ratify a joint venture agreement relating to the setting up and operations of Sierra Leone National Carrier Limited. The Act grants the National Carrier an exclusive status as sole national carrier of the Republic of Sierra Leone, and full discretion over 40% of maritime transportation into and outside Sierra Leone, whether unitized or in bulk, dry or liquid.

Opposition lawmaker, Hon. Foday Rado Yokie said the amendment might be late, but timely, especially now that surtax charges have been omitted because it used to pose serious impediment to Sierra Leonean businesses that ship goods direct to Freetown. He said that was part of the reason why prices of goods are high in Sierra Leone, compared to Guinea.

Hon. Yokie said he was confident the removal of the surtax charge would encourage local businesses and investors to increase direct shipment into Freetown, which development he posit would lead to a drastic decrease in prices in goods in the country.

Another opposition lawmaker echoed similar sentiment about the new Act. Hon. Alhaji Ansumana Kaikai enthused that the Act would provide an atmosphere of simplicity as well as expedite the process of shipping through the sole port in the country, and in turn enhance trade and commerce.  He commended government for initiating the amendment and assured that opposition lawmakers were in support of the amendment.

Majority Leader, Hon. Ibrahim Bundu, in his concluding remarks, lauded MPs for their invaluable contribution in support of the amendment and averred that the amendment was key to the effective implementation of the new local content policy, which aims among other things to empower Sierra Leoneans to play lead in business.