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The Gambia Ports Authority at 50 (1972-2022): Some Milestones

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Sample Iconic Ships Commissioned by GPA

o          MV Bintang Bolong, The Gambia’s First Merchant Ship

The was a merchant ship built in Norway in 1976, and it was purchased by The Gambia Ports Authority and commissioned as a merchant ship in 1978. The ship was 63 metres long, 13 metres wide and had a speed limit of 12 knots, with a gross tonnage of 1637 tons. It cost Ports D2 million.

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The GPA wanted to make The Gambia a major regional player in merchant shipping through the MV Bintang Bolong. It linked Banjul with Manchester, Hull, Bordeaux and Rotterdam bringing and taking cargo. This is not to be confused with MV Bintang Bolong purchased much later under the Jammeh regime as a ferry.

o          MV Lady Chilel

It was built for and purchased by the GPA in 1978 as a passenger ship, and it came into operations the same year replacing the MV Lady Wright which had come into operations in 1948 until 1972. It was built in Glasgow, Scotland. Named after the First Lady, the boat made the 120 hours return journey from Banjul to Basse weekly from 1978 to 7 December 1984 when it sanked off Balingho, killing 4 people. Through this Ship, the GPA was able to boost tourism as most of its clients were tourists interested in using the beautiful River Gambia for pleasure cruise. The loss of the MV Lady Chilel marked the end of the use of our River for pleasure and cargo movements. The loss of the ship also led to the total decline of river ports or tendas like Kaur, Kossemar, Bintang, Tankular, Nianimaru etc. GPA was an engine of rural growth and development through the sailing RRiver boat services.

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She was a 702 gross tonnage, of 45.8 metres long and 10 metres wide. It cost GPA 1, 500 Pounds Sterling.

GPA Develops Banjul Port: More Activities, 1993-2004

Banjul Port Project Phase 2, 1993

In end of 1993, the GPA and the African Development Bank(AFDB) completed agreement for the disbursement of 15 million USD towards the Phase 2 of the Banjul Port Development Project. It was to last for 10 years to 2004 for completion.

 The project consists of three main components, namely: (A) construction of 177m long concrete jetty including three dolphins and ro-ro ramp for ro-ro vessels; (B) procurement of three floating craft vessels viz (i) Harbour Tug, (ii) Grab Dredger, and (iii) mooring launch for port operation activities; and (C) consultancy services for supervision of works for components described in the Appraisal Report and the project audit.

The overall objectives of the project were i) provide additional capacity to meet the present and future forecast levels of traffic requirements including container traffic through early years of the next century; ii) improve port operations, navigational safety and maintenance activities and increase through port capacity; iii) reduce the ship waiting time and avoid congestion, costly surcharges, and demurrage payment. The project was successfully completed.

‘GPA Pays Government D11 Million’

Before the 1994 army coup, GPA was one of the most viable and successfully managed parastatals. These news item testify to this fact:

The Managing Director of The Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) Pa O.B Cham has presented a check for D11,051,99.36 bututs last Friday 24 June 1994 to the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, B.B Dabo, MP in settlement of loans and for taxes and dividends.

Receiving the check, the Minister of Finance thanked the MD of GPA and his ‘brilliant team’ for their punctuality in making the presentations. ‘You are the first, and today is budget Day’ said Minister Dabo.

‘It is no exaggeration to say that the GPA constitutes one of the most important pillars of the economy’, said the Minister.

MD Cham said that by a Cabinet Decision in March 1994, Government has decided to transform the GPA status from a statutory Corporation authority under a Performance Contract to a limited liability company under the Companies Act. He also explained that the Third BanjulPort Project known as The Gambia Trade Gateway Project will cost USSD60 Million and will be financed by the World Bank, the AFDB and the GPA.

Present at the ceremony were GPA Director of Operations, A.B Jallow; Director of Finance, A.A Barry; Director of Technical Services, V.A Blell.’

Daily Observer, 27 June 1994, p.1 and 11.

‘GPA, GAMTEL Excels in Parastatal Performance’

‘The Minister of Finance B.B Darboe delivered his budget speech on Friday and said that in the 1992/1993 Year, GPA exports through-put increased by 10 percent. GPA surpassed all its targets under the Performance Contract, and also met all its financial obligations to Government’

Daily Observer, 27 June 1994, p.14

‘The True Story of the Ferries of the GPA’

‘The Managing Director of the GPA Captain Leigh has stated that the ‘Niumi’ Ferry which plies between Banjul-Barra was commissioned in 1979; ‘Banjul’ ferry which also plies this route was commissioned in 1978, and the tugboat Tesito was commissioned in 1977 and has 1000hp and can pull any ferry to drydock or safety.

He told this paper that each ferry has a VHF radio for communication.

The GPA MD added that at Bamba Tenda crossing there are two ferries ‘Amang Kanyi’ and ‘Saloum’. There are also wooden ferries at Kaur, Jareng, Bansang, Kuntaur, Sankulaykunda, Kerewan, Basse.

Captain Leigh admitted that ‘not very much money is being made from the ferries. It is a like a public service. There is always heavy expe4nditure on spare parts. Thereefore, the ferry services as a whole make us lose money. We therefore expect that soon the ferry services will be given to the new River Transport Corporation. GPA will then be able to focus on ports (Banjul and Kaur), pilotage, buoys and lights, reclamation of land, river conservancy and pollution’.

The Senegambia Sun, 21 August, 1983, p.

The Gambia Ports Authority Football Team

Created as early as 1974, the team remains one of the oldest in Gambian soccer. Below are some snippets in its glory days in the 1980s.

‘GPA Faces Relegation

1983 League Table as of 8 August 1983

Source: Senegambia Sun, 9 September, 1983

‘However, Ports’ Paolo Rossi was the second highest goal scorer so far in the League after Pochi Sarr’

The Senegambia Sun, 8 August, 1983, p.11.

However, due to hard work and more money pumped into the team, Ports were able to climb the League during the 1984 season and win the League Cup! Here is how a local newspaper reported it.

‘GPA League Champs!’

‘The league championship of The Gambia Football Association ended on Sunday 28 October at the Independence Stadium in Bakau with Ports as Champs! The Ports team after having been infused with new blood, the players also started training collectively long before the season opened. As a result, they were able to have a constantly ameliorating collective performance throughout the season.

Goalkeeper Saho made a great comeback this season. Finally, GPA as the league champs now have to prepare for their international encounters’.

Now back to the Ports-Young Africans match which drew 2-2 and made Ports win the league. We all know this was a key match because Ports needed to win to secure their position at the top of the league.

Ports scored their first goal early as the 14th minute when following a magnificent Star Njie, Kabba Ceesay combination, Essa Faye well in position’ converted the resultant pass into a goal’.

League Table as of 30 September 1984 (with two matches to play)

Source: Senegambia Sun, 5 November, 1984.

‘Ports Wallop Young African 4-0 as Championship Resumes at Stadium’

Senegambia Sun 8 October 1984, p.10

Ports Team Line up 1983/1984

Pochi Sarr

Star Njie

Badou Touray

Essa Faye


Kabba Ceesay

How Was It Like To Travel By GPA Boat From Banjul to Basse and Back? Well a traveler filed I this report in The Gambia Echo Newspaper, in October 1952. It still remains true and any day GPA revives River Transport, these memories will flow back!


‘It was a crowded wharf Admiralty Wharf on Friday, August the 4th 1950. Men women young and old, and also children went up and down the wharf, alongside of which lay the H.M.C.S. “Lady Wright”, calm and majestic ready for third trip up the mighty Gambia, as far as Basse.

Between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. passengers had gone aboard and visitors to the vessel had gone down standing on the wharf. Just after 10 o’clock there came two late passengers, a man and a woman; these rushed in just before the companion ladder was removed. At 10.30 a.m. “Lady Wright” began to move away from the wharf into the stream, while passengers aboard and their friends and relatives on the wharf waved goodbye to one another. An amateur photographer, (it was a parson) was busy taking snaps of the ship and her passengers on board.

Half an hour later, Bathurst was left far behind passengers had begun to meet one another – There were traders, labourers, private travellers, Govt Officials, & a good representative of the Education Department – Education Officers (Advisers) High School Teachers, Primary School Teachers and school children, male and female – Albion School was represented by the two teachers, M. B. H.S. by two teacher and eight pupils, M. G.H.S. by two pupils, St. Mary’s by two pupils, St. Augustine’s Primary by an E. O., St. Joseph’s Convent Primary by a teacher, Mohameddan by a teacher, ARTS and Crafts by an E. O., and Serrekunda  Govt. School by a teacher. Someone on board rightly referred to this trip as a Teacher’s Trip.

Soon Dog Island was sighted, then St. James Island (well remembered by teachers as the scene of their 1946 Teachers’ Week Excursion). Small ports of call were reached, cargoes discharged and loaded, passengers disembarked and embarked. At Ballingo many of the passengers (mostly teachers) went ashore to have a look round. We carried back to the ship our impression of the activity of the local store-keeper at this time of slowing down of trade, and could well imagine what the place would look like when trade was in full swing.

At every port of call villagers would crowd the banks of the river, some singing the praise of the beautiful ship, others smiling and waving heartily to the passengers on board.

Our first night on the River Gambia was one that will be long remembered by the few of us who witnessed a very interesting scene and shared in the fun attendant to it in such terms as “I done tire” “me no bisin,” “I die e done.” Yes, it was a lovely night, well to be long remembered.

The next morning, 5th August, found us anchored at Kaur. As it was still drizzling, the previous day having been a wet one, many of us could not go ashore, the place being muddy and slippery. Staying at Kaur for well over two hours, we finally left there and continued our voyage, calling at some small ports until we arrived at Kuntaur at 12.15 p. m. We saw coming to the ship the postal clerks with their bags of money and the dispenser-in-charge – a 11 old friends from Bathurst.

As the weather was fine a number of teachers went ashore, visiting the Health Centre, the Post Office and other places of interest. We were impressed by the pioneering work being done by the amenities granted them, especially with their fine houses.

Two hours later we left Kuntaur and headed for Walikunda, where the C. D. C. are experimenting on the cultivation of rice. Unloading and reloading the ship took well-nigh three hours, for it was at this port that the largest cargo was discharged for the C. D. C.

Leaving this port almost at dusk the ship plodded its way upstream toward Georgetown, which was reached at 9.0 p.m. (Saturday) We teachers on board, were somewhat disappointed when we arrived at Georgetown in the night, because we had intended visiting the school, the college and Teachers Quarters. But we were soon cheered up by the arrival on board of almost all the teachers in Georgetown. We accepted their invitation to attend an informal meeting of the Georgetown Branch of the Gambia Teachers Union in the house of the Branch President. Among those who attended this meeting were the General President, the General Secretary, the Secretary Thrift Society and a member of the Executive Committee of the Gambia Teachers Union. The meeting was historic, it not only afforded opportunity for the exchange views with our co-workers in Georgetown but we also saw for ourselves the unsatisfactory conditions under which they live. Compared with the houses of other Government Servants whose quarters we visited on our trip the houses of Georgetown teachers are satisfactory. We returned to the “Lady Wright” about 11.0 p.m. to continue our voyage to Bansang.

We made Bansang in the early hours of the morning (Sunday, 6. 8. 50.) Some of us teachers, both male and female, drove in the Hospital Van to visit the Bansang Hospital. We visited the quarters of the staff, the wards and the theatre. We were very much impressed by all we saw, especially by the tidiness of the place. Here again we enjoyed another fun – we nearly left behind a very important passenger. I can now visualise him running down the wharf, his coat flying behind him as he ran. He boarded the ship right away, and we continued toward Basse.

On the way we saw the monument of Mungo Park, a lasting reminder of the great work done by the great explorer of the Gambia and the Niger. We saw a lot of monkeys, but were very much disappointed when we arrived at “Monkeys’ Court” to fine that court session was over, with only a solitary sentinel mounting guard. We also saw the ‘Lady Denham’ in her watery grave – that good ship which carried Teachers once to St. James Island.

At last Basse was made at about 9 p.m.. Passengers disembarked. On the following morning, Monday 7850, we went ashore, visiting the Post Office, the Market, the Health Centre and some of the stores in the town for purchases. TWO teachers a male and female, an E. O. and a school boy drove in thePriest in-charge’s car to pay a visit to the Roman Catholic school at Fulabantang. We were impressed by the work standard of work of the Pupils in the school and the department of the dispenser-in-charge at Basse.

We were back in the ship by noon, ready for our return trip. It will be redundant to recount in detail our activities on the return trip.

Suffice it to say that we enjoyed this trip to the full. We were satisfied with the officers and crew on board who helped us in all our needs. Special mention should be made of the indefatigable Transport Officer who answered satisfactorily the various questions we put to him about the geography, history and other interests of the various places and things we saw during our voyage.

We returned to Bathurst on the morning of Wednesday, the 9th August, almost 120 hours after our departure. We were welcomed by the smiling faces of our dear ones who had said goodbye to us five days ago.

We hope it will be possible to arrange an All-Teachers Trip on the ‘Lady Wright’ as far as Fatoto at no distant date, to enable teachers to study the Geography of their country on the spot’.

In 2022, GPA Again Led the Pack in Corporate Fiscal Respone:


GPA pays D95M to gov’t

May 23, 2022, 10:57 AM | Article By: Ismaila Sonko

The Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) has paid D95 million dividend for 2020 to the government of The Gambia through the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs.

The payment ceremony was held at the Ministry of Finance in Banjul on Friday.

Demba Gaye, the vice chairman of board of directors of GPA, said there has been increment in this dividend in the past few years. According to him, the first dividend payment of D 20 million was increased by more than 100% in the year 2019; and now for the year 2020, “we are paying D95 million, an increase of more than 90%”.

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