The Commissioner of the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA), Binyan Kesselley, has said that the program initiated years ago to clean the beaches of Monrovia and its environs is no longer controlled by his institution, but by the central government.
Mr. Kesselley recalled that the LMA instituted the program in January, 2009 partly with youths who were involved in car washing in Mamba Point.
Speaking for the record, the LMA boss clarified that the program is now controlled by the central government. “Maritime is no longer a part of the physical operations. We have been asked to take it on, but there is no funding (for it). The money is currently being paid out of the coffers of the government. It is unfortunate this situation has occurred.”
Mr. Kesselley was speaking recently in the Joint Chambers of the Legislature during public hearings into the “Restated and Amended Agreement” between the Government of Liberia and the Liberia International Ship and Corporate Registry (LISCR, LLC).
Commissioner Kesselley recalled that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf recently made a bold policy statement reaffirming the government’s resolve to continue the program. “When the President made that statement, it became outrightly a policy, and our job now as the official intermediary and all of the stakeholders is to be able to identify where that money is going to come from.”
He informed journalists that the LMA was not sitting on money that was allotted to be paid to beach workers because according to him, there was no money to be paid. “That money has to be found from somewhere within the budget and I don’t run the Ministry of Finance. They have a much better idea what our revenue component looks like as a national government to be able to point to something.”
“So why I feel for our brothers and sisters, (beach workers), we must also understand that this requires funding, and the funding is not from here, (Maritime) but from the central government.”
Speaking earlier before the joint committees on Maritime, Judiciary & Ways, Means and Finance of the Legislature, Commissioner Kesselley assured the lawmakers that the document relating to the amendment to the extended and restated agency agreement between the Government and the Liberia International Ship and Corporate Registry (LISCR) was in the best interest of the citizens of Liberia and that it needed to be ratified.
The agreement, when ratified, will ensure a ten years extension of the current contract between GOL and LISCR which expires in less than two years.
Within the agreement, which according to Commissioner Kesselly, will help the Maritime expand in the area of commerce, there is a provision that 25% of revenue realized from the Maritime area will go to the LMA, while the remaining 75% is placed into a consolidated account of the Liberian government.
Mr. Kesselley however, warned that if the Legislature fails to ratify the current agreement which has been discussed within the Executive since 2012, no one should hold the Maritime authority responsible if the Maritime revenue starts to drop.
“As I said earlier, we have challenges in the sector. When I took over, there were four competitors – Liberia, Bahamas, Marshall Islands, and Panama. Now Cyprus, Malta and Singapore have been added to the list of competing maritime nations. He said Singapore currently has over 2,800 vessels waiting to dock in its port.”
The traffic in the strait of Singapore, according to Commissioner Kesselly, increases the Singaporean viability. “But we don’t have that in Liberia. The only thing we have is the registry so if we can’t expand operations as a registry to stay commercially viable, the money will just disappear because the revenue will drop significantly,” the LMA boss warned.