By Omar Bah
The National Audit Office has recommended for the Gambia Ports Authority to enter into a private partnership after the company failed to secure a $1.13 billion port project from DP World that ended up in Dakar, Senegal.
The Dubai-based port operator DP World has commenced construction of a $1.13bn deep-water port at Ndayane, Senegal, 50km from the capital, Dakar after reportedly not reaching any agreement with the GPA.
According to the Auditor General’s Office the port of Banjul is “one of the few ports in Africa that operate as a public service port without a single aspect of its operations that is privatised or managed by the private sector.
“Numerous investors, both national and international companies have shown interest in collaborating with GPA but none of them was successful. A classical example is a proposal of DP world (a company from Dubai) to build ports, operate, and transfer it at an agreed period which was unsuccessful resulting in the company approaching the port of Dakar where they are currently operating and contributing significantly to the transformation of the port of Dakar. Today, the port of Dakar is ranked as one of the most performing ports in the sub-region,” the Auditor General’s report said.
Aging GPA staff
According to the auditors, the stevedore operation at the port of Banjul is “unable to optimally handle the amount of throughput coming due to the aging workforce”.
“Eighty percent of the workforce consists of people aged 40 years and above of which 18% have met the retirement age of 60 years but are still in the system,” the report added.
Furthermore, the auditors added, dockworkers that “are old are unable to cope with the requirements of the work had to result in subcontracting family members or outsiders that are neither trained nor obliged to operate according to the dock labour act 2007 as they were not officially employed thus can lead to occupational hazard as they are not covered by insurance and can as well compromise the quality of service rendered.”
Commenting on the port congestion, the auditors said: “As confirmed with the shipping lines, due to the amount of time the vessels have to spend at anchorage, containerised cargo owners are sometimes bill to pay congestion fees which ranges between 300 to 400 dollars per container and bulk cargo owners are required to pay demurrages after the designated agreed time elapses without discharging.
“These demurrage charges range between 5,000 to 15,000 dollars depending on the size of the vessel and agreement between the owners of the vessels and the charterer (importer) before departure. Major importers like Jah Oil, George Banna, and others have highlighted that they were compelled to lose thousands of dollars on demurrage charges due to the berthing congestion and other inefficiencies at the port of Banjul,” the report added.
This, the auditors added, has contributed to skyrocketing prices in essential commodities in The Gambia.
The National Audit Office said public-private partnerships have emerged as a mechanism to leverage greater private investment participation in port development and most importantly, to access specialised skills, innovations, technologies, and infrastructure development and therefore recommended for the GPA to enter into that.
Reacting to the auditors’ findings, the GPA said the notion that DP World proposal to the GPA being unsuccessful resorting to the firm approaching the Port of Dakar should be treated in the context that while the GPA was based on an unsolicited offer, the case of Dakar was by way of public tender.