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Modern Ports Management in Sierra Leone


 

The Sierra Leone Ports Authority SLPA is a semi-autonomous entity , established in 1964 by the Ports Act of 1964 (amended in 1991).  At inception, its main aims were to regulate and control all ports and maritime activities, operate the Freetown port and oversee Nitti and Pepel ports.

SLPA has gradually stabilized from after the civil, moving from an operating loss of Le433m in 2006 to substantial operating profits in 2014.  Investments have included significant civil works, plant and machinery and stevedoring gear.

The SLPA is moving forward under the dynamic leadership of General Manager, Abu B Bangura and has formulated innovative plans for establish a more efficient and transformed service, acting as a Landlord port instead of a service port.  In order to achieve this, there is the need to recruit experienced and innovative staff, restructure the current ports structure as a landlord port with private sector participation in core activities, concession the container terminal and license service providers for shore handling of break bulk cargo. 

Innovation in SLPA calls for a redefinition of the economic and technical regulatory function associated with a revised SLPA structure.  It will also require new legislation and a proper outsourcing of the ferry function and slipway.

The key responsibilities of the General Manager are to act as chief executive of the SLPA and as a key adviser to the SLPA Board.   He produces the corporate plan, coordinates the subordinates, manages the human resources, liases with the privatization commission to implement corporate policies on time and budget and in accordance with maritime best practice.

Mr Bangura’s aim during hi s tenure is to ensure that SLPA is an efficient and competitive port.  This will be achieved by increasing trade flows and fostering economic development,  creating port network by bringing together public, private and international entities.

Ports are important for development because they connect the country to international trade, 80% of which are channeled through ports.   The way SLPA is organized has a profound impact on trade volume and transport costs, and largely affects Sierra Leone’s businesses’ competitiveness.  In order for the economy to remain competitive, it must sustain and create jobs, which affects Sierra Leoneans’ well-being directly.   This is particularly important because the trade and maritime transport sector is subject to constant regulatory changes.  Port officials must be able to grasp the growing complexities of port management.

As SLPA proceeds in its quest for modernization and competitiveness, it will be important to examine some key issues:

  1. Human Resources Function Effectiveness
  2. SLPA readiness for change status
  3. Organisational Data Management including human resources and management information and data
  4. Ports network based structures
  5. Public-private partnership models
  6. Human Resources empowerment tools, including effective performance management
  7. Robust methodology for knowledge sharing and ICT advancement
  8. Critical issues in Modern Port Management (including international trade and transport, future challenges to ports systems, economic and commercial management, administrative and legal management and technical and human resources management)
  9. Key understanding of port concession

10.  Critical Issues For Stevedoring Effectiveness

According to the United States investment climate statement in 2012, the

geo-strategic location of Sierra Leone’s Freetown area harbor makes it a strong potential for development as a trans-shipment global trade hub.

 

Following the evaluation of bids received from a public tender process, the Sierra Leone Port Authority signed a concession agreement and transferred its container terminal management and stevedoring activities to the private sector company, Bollore Africa Logistics, for a 20 year concession period. Bollore, a French registered company listed on the Paris Stock Exchange, operates eight container terminal concessions in Africa; offers stevedoring in 10 ports in Africa; and also operates in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania.

 

Mismanagement, inefficient operations, high financial loses, and lack of investment at the port are the Sierra Leone government’s justifications for engaging a foreign firm to take over these responsibilities. The infrastructure at the ports is outdated and cannot handle modern vessels resulting in a recent reduction in traffic volumes. Bollore efforts since taking over the port have been marginally successful. Foreign businesses routinely cite the port as the most significant factor that discourages private sector investment.