Liberia: Big Relief for Port Users

“If we don’t have a rapid turnaround time, it has an impact on cost, and these costs are passed down to the consumers,” said Lenn Eugene Nagbe, LiMA Commissioner (center).

.... As Maritime Authority, others introduce Single Window System

The Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA) has introduced the single window system to dramatically reduce the number of physical inspections of shipments at the country’s ports as well as increase the simplification of the clearing process.

The process is expected to be executed via digital automation, which will remove the paperwork from transactions. 

The Port of Monrovia is the gateway to Liberia and its capital city, where 90% of the country’s economic activity takes place, but business owners and vessels say it takes too long to get goods cleared, and permit-related delays ramp-up costs. 

Previously, entrepreneurs and businesses had to fill out several forms and visit different government agencies to get the permits and pay the levies, fees, duties, and taxes they needed to get goods across borders.

But with the launch of this new system, port users will no longer need to physically take documents from one agency to another for processing.

Instead, the portal provides an opportunity for businesses and shipping lines to lodge their documents, including certificates of origin, invoices, customs declarations, and import/export permits, at a single location (electronically) to be accessed by all regulatory and trade agencies.

The system will ensure that what is declared is collected in revenue, thereby eliminating undervaluation and payments.

Lenn Eugene Nagbe, LiMA Commissioner, who signed and issuance the Marine Notice on the implementation of the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic said  that the turnaround time for vessels at the ports of Monrovia and Buchanan was slow, saying “if we don’t have a rapid turnaround time, it has an impact on cost and these costs are passed down to the consumers.” 

The purpose of the Marine Notice is to guide on implementing the requirements of the FAL Convention (as amended) to prevent unnecessary delays in Maritime traffic and aid government agencies in conducting uniformity formalities and procedures.

“So the inter-agencies working group that included all agencies, including APM Terminals, decided to find ways and formally put into place a system that will reduce the turnaround time. We have identified all of the problems. Sometimes they were on our side, meaning, the boarding party can inspect on time and others were structural issues but it is still our responsibility to fix them. 

“And when we looked at the applicable laws or convention that Liberia acceded to, we thought that reviewing the FAL Convention and applying the proper marine notice would be the first step in fixing this situation,” said Commissioner Nagbe.

According to him, "if a ship comes to the Freeport of Monrovia and turns around quickly, it has an impact on a whole store of things. It is the first step, yes, because there are a lot of things that we need to do at the Freeport of Monrovia."

He added, “We cannot continue giving excuses to the people of Liberia, we have to fix things. Why [does] it take about 50% less to ship a container to Guinea than to Liberia? If the boarding parties don’t complete their job within five hours, six, one, or whatever, that has an impact on the efficiency of the vessels and that inefficiency has a real cost to consumers. So we are working together to solve some of these problems.” 

Earlier on, Cllr. Charles Gono, Deputy Commissioner at LiMA,  said that the objectives of the project are to prevent unnecessary delays in maritime traffic, to aid cooperation between governments agencies, and to secure the highest practicable degree of uniformity in formalities and other procedures. 

Cllr. Gono said once the vessel berths and the gangway is secured, the boarding party shall complete boarding formalities and carry out necessary checks immediately, if any; and grant the Port Operator the approval of vessel operations within a maximum time of 36 minutes, among others. 

“This is why we are here today to launch the single window system. The single window system enables the shipping agent, owner to send documents that are required through electronic means that will allow the port and all the inspectors to be able to look at documents before the ship’s arrival,” he said. 

In a brief remark, Ms. Fatoumata Barry, president of the Shipping Agencies Association lauded the LiMA for the great step taken to resolve some of the problems they are facing as shipping agents. 

“We are really happy to be here today and we have been looking forward to this initiative that will enable our port to be more efficient and attractive to the people of Liberia. So, we are looking forward to this single window system being implemented as soon as possible because we are here to support and collaborate with all the authorities that make this happen,” she said.

Jonathan Graham, APM Terminals Liberia General Manager said: “From APM Terminals Liberia’s point of view, we are extremely happy today and willing to be compliant and to serve our customers and Liberia, which is our goal. We look forward to continuing working together and improving the Freeport of Monrovia.”

Meanwhile, statements were made by the NPA Managing Director, Bill Tweahway, and LRA Commissioner General Thomas Doe-Nah, who are also part of the boarding parties, among others.