By Omar Bah
The Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) has announced plans to construct a dry port in Basse, Upper River Region, as short-term measure to address the prevailing congestion at the Banjul port.
A dry port is an inland intermodal terminal directly connected by road or rail to a seaport, operating as a centre for the transshipment of sea cargo to inland destinations.
Port congestion in Banjul is currently causing significant service disruptions not only for the port authority but most specifically to the charter shipping companies. As a result, several shipping lines have reviewed their economic model in relation to the port of Banjul as they have increased the emergency congestion surcharge on containers bound for Banjul.
Speaking in a Standard exclusive, the GPA managing director, Ousman Jobarteh, said: “We are at an advanced stage with an international project developer to construct a dry port in Basse to cater for the transit business which is about 60 percent of our business value going to the southern regions of Senegal, Mali, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.
“Now instead of coming all the way to Banjul, trucks will stop at Basse while we transport the goods from Banjul to Basse using river barges and there will be lot of economic regeneration when the logistic platform is constructed in Basse,” Jobarteh told The Standard.
He said the authority is hopeful of accessing “a grant funding from the African Development Bank (AfDB) later in the year to cover other projects that relate to river revitalisation including, the dry port in Basse”.
The Basse Dry Port, MD Jobarteh added, will cut the distance of traffic for trucks coming from Senegal, Mali, Guinea Conakry and Guinea Bissau by half.
“It will also help The Gambia to be more climate resilience because by January 2023, the International Maritime Organisation is coming up with new terms of resolutions to reduce emission and what that means if ships stay longer in the ports, there will be greater risk of emission and The Gambia may not be found to be compliant,” he said.
He said the project will also increase the country’s chances of accessing climate funding mechanism.
“Our competitive advantage as a country is in our natural endowment which is the river. This is why river transport will be given priority in the country’s next NDP to increase its competitiveness because 60 percent of the goods that come to the country find their way to the border countries,” he said.
Cost of living
MD Jobarteh said external factors which are beyond the control of government are the most crucial as to why the cost of doing business in The Gambia is increasing and reflects in prices of goods.
“For instance, the whole supply chain was affected because of Covid-19 in 2020. Factories were shut down. Now when the activities started picking up what is realised is that the cost of crude oil has gone up by more that 50 percent between 2019 to 2020 from US$45 to US$65,” he added.
Jobarteh said the shipping industry has also substantially gone up since 2019.
“A 20-ft container from Europe to Banjul in the early 2019 was US$2,750 but by mid-2020 it increased to US$5,700 nearly 100 percent increment and this alone account for more than 80 percent of the total share value of goods into Banjul,” he said.
“From our analysis, an additional US$12 million per annum is being expected as surcharge in the economy. This is because of the US$200 per container levy added as surcharge on import figures to Banjul with a minimum figure of 60,000 containers per year,” he said.