By Kebba Touray
The Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Mr. Amadou Sanneh, has answered questions regarding the Ports and freight charges by responding to the question put to him by Hon. Dembo KM Darboe, the Member for Illiasa constituency. The Parliamentarian asked the Minister to explain why Maersk Line and other Shipping Agencies in the country have the highest freight charges, compared to Senegal and Guinea Conakry.
Mr. Sanneh in response said freight charges are prices and like all prices, demand and supply play a critical role in determining them. “This price differences can also be seen in other areas like air fares, which they believe is determined and as they live in a liberal economy, Government has no control over this. The money is being charged to protect the Shipping Agent and the GPA Terminal Operator,’’ he said.
In a supplementary question, the Member for Serre Kunda, Halifa Sallah, asked the Minister if he would not also consider that in the new dispensation, if this is not properly addressed, inefficiency is actually being promoted and paid for?; that if this wouldn’t be a cause to require a constant review of the situation of what is at hand?”
In his response, the Finance Minister said these are issues within the domains of the Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) and the Ministry of Works and Construction, but nonetheless he said monetary charges are based on the long established shipping transits; that if a container spends days at the Ports, they are paid on daily basis; that these are established rules within the dock workers and that if there are inefficiencies on the side of the Ports, then we need to look at them with a view to address them.
The Member for Illiasa in another supplementary question asked the Minister whether Government and the Gambia Ports Authority have any plans to allow Shipping Agencies in the country particularly Maersk Line to have their own container terminals in order to relieve the burden on the GPA.
In response to the Hon. Member’s question, the Finance Minister, Mr. Amadou Sanneh, said the first point to note is that Container Terminal Management is usually not the function of Shipping Agents or Lines but rather Terminal Operators such as Dubai Ports, APM Terminals among others; that as a government, they are open to proposals to improve operations at the Ports.
‘‘Any terminal operator has the right to send in proposals for Port Terminal Management and the competent authorities will review the proposal and advise Government,” said Mr. Sanneh. “Demurrage is charged by shipping Line and the Terminal operator (GPA), to better manage their space and capacity issues,” Mr. Sanneh said.
Mr. Sanneh also said in response to the question by the NAM for Illiasa, Hon. Dembo KM Camara that demurrage is charged by both the shipping Line and the Terminal operator (GPA), to better manage their space and capacity issues.
Mr. Sanneh explained that in the case of the shipping lines, it encourages individuals and business to also quickly return their containers.
“As for the ports, this is good for space management at our already congested port. It ensures individuals quickly clearing their cargo and free up the space for incoming containers,” Mr. Sanneh said.
On why the Gambia Ports Authority’s security insurance does not cover all associate agencies such as Customs, Health, NIA, the Police and particularly Dockers who toiled for their daily bread, Mr. Sanneh declined to give answers to the question, but referred the Hon. Member to the Ministry of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, saying: “this matter should be referred to the Ministry of Works, Transport and Infrastructure.”
He concluded that Government is working with development partners on Port Expansion and that if they are ready, this will resolve the congestion issues presently encountered.