By Kebba Secka
Gambia Ports Authority, CPCS and INFRACO, an international organization on transport and infrastructure have on Monday 29th July2019, signed a memorandum of Understanding for the Banjul Port and Basse.
Experts say the project will begin with a feasibility study to gather first-hand information on the areas to be rehabilitated.
The ceremony brings together stakeholders such as Ministry of Arts and Culture, Ministry of Transport among others. In his opening statement, Managing Director of the Gambia Port Authority Ousman Jorbateh, said river transport has been identified as one of the most cost effective for the movement of high-volume cargo as contained in the country’s national transport policy for 2017-2028. He added that the revitalization of river transport will enhance trade as well as boost the country’s potential to serve in trade linking the West African Market.
Expert Amit Modi, explained that the project will mainly focus on the revitalization of the ports of Banjul and Basse with its primary objective to facilitate easy movement of goods and services. He said that easy movement of goods and services at the Port for international cargoes is prioritized in the project adding: “we may consider passenger transportation in the second phase of the project,” he responded.
Historical records have shown that the Gambia River was the backbone of the Gambian Transport System thus providing a vibrant impetus for national socio economic development. The river was used extensively with regular ship movements to the inland port of Kaur up to Basse, four hundred kilometres from Banjul.
“Over the years, decline in river transport has left hitherto vibrant coastal trading settlement to degenerate to the advantage of regional centres along the road network. These ship reception facilities are not in use due to dilapidation and the plan is to redevelop Kaur and Basse to serve as dry ports for onward distribution to Southern Senegal and South/West of Mali,” says MD Jorbateh.
Officials of the GPA expect the feasibility study to include the dredging of the river in order to achieve navigable depths of up 5 meters as the shallow points have depths of 3. 5 metres due to rapid siltation over time. Officials believe the project is in line with the National Development Plans of 2018-19, which include the development of transport and infrastructure. Experts and stakeholders also had a round table discussion on the constraints, commercialization, permits, dry port among others. They are also expected to tour the Port and hold meetings with the officials of Ministry of Transport, Works and Infrastructure on the way forward. The occasion was graced by the British High Commissioner, Chief Executive Officer of the InfraCo Africa, Peter Hutchinson.