The sun was sweltering but the news of the “Gateway to Liberia’s Economy”-the Freeport of Monrovia edging towards rendering 24-hour service was just enough to provide the needed shade. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said the transformation of the port industry is on.
The Liberian leader spoke when she commissioned the Aids to Navigation equipment and a Contingency Fuel Unloading Facility at the Freeport of Monrovia on Thursday, May 19, 2016. These facilities will enhance the National Port Authority (NPA) vision to move towards rendering 24-hr service to ships.
She recounted that her administration inherited a Freeport of Monrovia that was in an alarming and deplorable state, but marveled at the unimaginable and gratifying turnaround.
The Liberian Chief Executive pointed out that the commissioning of the new equipment and Navigational Aids will go a long way in providing more jobs for Liberians as well as increasing government’s revenues through the payment of taxes by shipping agencies because ships will now be able to berth and sail out any hour of the day.
The Contingency Fuel Unloading Facility provides government an alternative to continue the supply of petroleum products on the local market while the construction of the new modern Fuel Unloading Facility is in progress.
President Johnson-Sirleaf expressed glee that conditions are now improving as a result of the transformational processes and said she was impressed to see port workers, including members of the Dock Workers Association and cross-section of port users all proud of what the Freeport of Monrovia looks like today. She then commended the Managing Directors of the National Port Authority (NPA) and the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company for working together closely to make use of what is being provided at the Freeport of Monrovia by APM-Terminal.
She said there is no doubt that the management is modernizing the port because of study tours to other countries around Africa.
President Johnson-Sirleaf also requested everyone to fully cooperate with the process as it will attract resources to the port especially by end users of the facility. She cautioned the workers to continuously stand behind management in making the National Port Authority a first-class modernized facility, second to none in Africa. “We are waiting for this transformation to be accelerated ahead of 2017”, President Sirleaf stressed.
The Liberian leader said she was impressed that with cooperation from the workers, the port is gradually changing shape, following almost 30 years of derelict conditions, to the point where ships are now docking at the wharf at night, which translates in enhanced services that will lead to collection of more taxes. She called on the Managing Directors of NPA and LPRC to recognize those who previously made contributions to the port since their contributions are being built upon.
Speaking earlier, the Managing Director of NPA, Mr. David F. Williams, thanked the Liberian leader for the mentorship and guidance she continues to provide the Management of the National Port Authority, which according to him has enabled the leadership of NPA to invite President Sirleaf to commission the Contingency Fuel Unloading Facility and Aids to Navigation, which he described as extremely significant accomplishment of government development agenda.
The NPA boss pointed out that the financing and the installation of Aids to Navigation in the Freeport of Monrovia represents not only a milestone achievement by the Government of Liberia, but a major jump in the strive to make the country’s ports regionally competitive and efficient.
He said it would therefore require coordinated efforts by the NPA, LRA, APM Terminals, BIVAC and all stakeholders to be ready to provide the services, which according to him means more trade and commerce and a boost to the Liberian economy. He used the occasion to inform President Sirleaf of ongoing projects being undertaking by NPA in furtherance of the Government of Liberia’s Agenda for Transformation and said he will be inviting President Sirleaf in a couple of weeks to commission. The NPA Managing Director said the projects include the pavement of internal roads within the Freeport of Monrovia which has not been done for more than 25 years.
Other projects referred to included ongoing renovation works at the Port of Harper, the dredging of the Freeport of Monrovia, the Kuwait Fund loan for the rehabilitation of the Port of Greenville, the PPP solicitation for the development of the Port of Greenville, and the ongoing discussion with Bollore or the Joint Venture operation of the Port of Buchanan, among others.
Also speaking, the Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC), Mr. Sumo Kupee, said about four years ago, the World Bank, the LPRC, NPA and the President’s Project Delivery Unit had a consultative meeting and agreed that given the urgency of the kind of work that needed to be done on the Petroleum Jetty Line owing to its threatening condition, (in case of collapse), the supply of petroleum to the country would have been interrupted.
He said initially, when the problem was detected, the estimated cost of facility was put at US$1m. However, he said when the project got started and completed, it cost less than a $1m. “Madam President, with this facility restored, you can now be assured that there will be constant supply of petroleum products on the Liberian market,” Mr. Kupee noted.
For his part, the Managing Director of APM-Terminal, Mr. George Adjel, said the Liberian leader’s visit the facility is laudable. Mr. Adjel told President Sirleaf that with improved conditions at the port, up to nine vessels can possibly dock at the same time, as compared to over 30 years ago. He said this transformation is likely to bring quick benefits to the port, to the Liberian people, to port users and vessels that will dock and depart within short intervals. He said by the end of the project in June of 2017, APM Terminal would have invested US $108m.