The challenges of cost-effectiveness for shipping services, efficiency of seaports, high levels of freight rates and the special case of landlocked countries must keep maritime administrators of West and Central African countries awake at night.
This is because the economies of all countries in the region, just as is the case elsewhere, are heavily dependent on imports and exports – 90 percent of which is done through sea transport.
Director General of the Ghana Maritime Authority, Mr. Thomas K. Alonsi, said these when he chaired the Committee of Experts’ meeting at the 16th Extraordinary Session of the General Assembly of the Maritime Organisation of West and Central Africa (MOWCA) in Accra.
He said: “Almost half a century after the establishment of MOWCA, it is time to ask if the organisation has achieved all those lofty ideals for which it was established”.
Mr. Alonsi said even though progress had been made, significant challenges remain – negatively impacting the maritime industry and dimming its contribution to the economies of member-states, despite the industry’s enormous potential.
He told experts from the 17 of the 25-member body present at the meeting that they were duty-bound to contribute honestly and dispassionately to discussions in the session.
“I hope and pray that all committee members will be guided singularly by a desire to see the organisation revamped and strengthened to play its role well on the international shipping stage. We owe this to ourselves and our future generations. I believe that we will demonstrate candour, fairness and integrity in these deliberations and inform our ministers as candidly as we possibly can to help them take progressive decisions that will advance the cause of making the maritime industry in West and Central Africa viable,” he stressed.
A representative of Mr. Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, Transport Minister and Chairman of MOWCA, Mr. Amin Abdul-Rahaman who opened the session, called for innovation – particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic which he said has disrupted the smooth-running of the maritime industry.
“We are all aware of the challenges confronting the maritime sector, especially in this period of COVID-19 pandemic which has further been exacerbated by the emergence of variances to the pandemic.
“These developments clearly tell us that we are not in normal times and we need to sit up as a collective body and confront the challenges head-on,” stressed Mr. Abdul-Rahaman, who is the Director in charge of Finance and Administration at the Transport Ministry.
The experts’ committee meeting preceded the General Assembly of MOWCA, which was attended by transport ministers and their representatives from 17 countries in the West and Central Africa region and chaired by Ghana’s Transport Minister, Mr. Asiamah.