By Lamin Njie
Mr. Ousman Jobarteh, the Managing Director of the Gambia Ports Authority (GPA), the country’s only sea port of entry, stated that the GPA is growing in terms of the volume of trade it handles, despite the numerous challenges faced by his organization.
According to him, these challenges include the growing number of ships coming into the Port to berth, and the commensurate number of containers to handle in this regard. He noted that a study was commissioned by the management of GPA in 2018, conducted by the Royal Haskoning of The Netherlands, to produce a new Port Master Plan (2018-2038). The Master Plan is to guide the infrastructural and institutional reforms, both of which are needed to meet the growth in traffic.
“This Master Plan study also looked at the option of having a deep-sea Port along the southern coastline of the country, and investigated five locations, from Bijilo up to Tujereng. However, the Study finally recommended that if the Banjul Port is improved it will suffice at least for the next 20 years,” he said.
The expansion of the Jetty at the Port of Banjul, according to him, will provide more berthing space for ships. The acquisition of Half Die properties in Banjul will provide more space to handle the growth of containers at the Port.
Still on the Port expansion project, Mr. Jobarteh revealed that the total targeted area for the Port expansion project is about 58,000 square meters; 26,000 square meters have already been acquired, and 80 percent of the property owners have signed agreements with the Port; the original property owners are to be relocated somewhere around Kachikali layout in Bakau.
According to Mr. Jobarteh, the GPA plans to digitalize the Port’s operations, to improve its effectiveness and efficiency, and to engage in the capacity development of its staff, all of which is in line with the noted Port Master Plan (2018-2038).
On the issue of The Gambia Ferry Services, the Managing Director said there is a new focus and strategic business plan. The idea is to amalgamate ferries with the wider maritime subsector, such as the revitalization of The Gambia river transport, from Banjul to Basse and beyond, and the re-commissioning of the Banjul Shipyard.
Mr. Jobarteh attributed the importance of GPA activities to the vital role it plays in the overall economy of The Gambia. He said 60 percent of goods traded or transacted in the country, originally passes through the Port by way of transit, including the cross border and re-export trades. He attributed the continued attractiveness of the Port of Banjul to the current political and economic stability of the country, guaranteed by the new government and political leadership.
“As a Port, we believe that the transaction policy and procedures we have in place, makes us very competitive. We are surrounded by bigger Ports in neighboring countries with bigger Port facilities, but because of our effectiveness despite the challenges, we continue to attract greater volumes of goods.” He added.
Lamin Njie is the Assistant Information Officer, Ministry of Works