The Authority is a major player in national socio economic activities, accounting for almost 80% of the country’s international trade both in terms of volume and value. Gambia Ports Authority (GPA), a State Owned Enterprise was enacted by an Act of Parliament in 1972 as a statutory public institution charged, among other things, with the mandate of port and marine services deemed to be expedient to the public interest.
Among a myriad of competitive advantages that the Port of Banjul leverages is its natural strategic position within the Atlantic Trade Triangle, which enhances its potential to serve as a vital hub to the ECOWAS market with a population in excess of 400 million people and an annual trade valued more than USD 500 billion. It is also easily accessible to major business centers in the EU and the Americas.
The GPA, at present, has a total land area of over 95,000 m², which is classified as a Customs Zone with installations and services that facilitates the activities of some statutory State actors on a quotidian basis.
However, the GPA Management runs and manages the day-to-day administrative/operational functions of the Authority. Simply put, the GPA manages, monitors, controls and supervises all activities relative to navigation of ships from the access channel to the berths, cargo discharge/loading from ships, transfer to storage areas and delivery to consignees. The cargo handled at the Port is under said-to-contain basis under custody on behalf of shipping lines until releases are obtained from the latter and the necessary customs and mandatory clearance from other relevant state actors before effecting delivery.
All matters relative to contents of packages and containers on intelligence issues, drugs, immigration, taxation/revenue collections, contraband goods, food and food inspections as well as issues inimical to the natural environment, fall under the remit of the relevant state agencies charged with the respective responsibilities.
Public perception about the different roles and responsibilities of the different state parties in the goods clearance procedures warrants sensitization for better understanding about the presence of all these State Operatives/Agencies at the Port.
Therefore, the ill-conceived notion that the GPA is directly responsible for discovery and seizure of illicit cargo such as drugs and other items deemed subversive to state security needs to be clarified. Being a handling agency, the GPA provides the necessary accommodation and facilities to enhance the operations of the said state actors such that the proper screening and inspections of cargo are done appropriately before delivery to goods owners.
Each State Operative/Agency at GPA plays a critically unique function but common in approach and coordination of efforts in keeping The Gambia safe from all immigration risk and contraband goods while ensuring that taxes levied on goods are collected by Customs at the Port of Banjul.
Present at the Banjul Port premises are the Gambia Police Force (GPF), State Intelligence Service (SIS), Gambia Immigration Department (GID), Drug Law Enforcement Agency - The Gambia (DLEAG), Food Safety and Quality Assurance (FSQA), Public Health (PH) and National Environment Agency (NEA).
Each of them has an installation and a clear-cut role to play but progressively cohabit and to a certain degree, harmonize operations with the GPA in a collaborative manner. The level of coordination and harmonization of efforts among these players in handling of cargoes from discharge to delivery is satisfactory and constitutes one of the strong selling points in the marketing strategy to attract business to the Port.
Indeed, it takes a whole process for a container/imported goods to be delivered. Key stakeholders such as Shipping Lines, Inland Transport Companies and Clearing and Forwarding Agencies are a subject for another discussion.
At the heart of this write-up is the distinction that exists between the GPA and these State Operatives/Agencies operating within the port environ. Drugs and drug related substances are real time issues exclusively for Drug Law Enforcement Agency, The Gambia (DLEAG). For instance, if a drug of any sort is impounded within the Port precincts whether in-bound or out-bound it becomes a matter for the DLEAG, not the GPA. The SIS hankers after information and intelligence gathering, the GPF and other agencies independently carry out their specified duties unimpeded.
It is hoped that this piece will enhance public knowledge and understanding of the different players operating at the Port and their distinctive functions in our collective bis to sustain and improve port operations in line with the GPA’s corporate mission “to excel as a leading maritime center for trade, logistics and distribution in Africa.
A Guest Editorial