Madam Matilda Parker, National Port Authority (NPA) Managing Director, has unveiled a US$2 billion “Master Plan” for the further development and expansion of the nation’s seaports. These include the Freeport of Monrovia, Liberia’s principal port, the Port of Buchanan in Grand Bassa, the Port of Greenville in Sinoe, and the Port of Harper in Maryland.
A significant new development has been added—building a brand new port in Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County.
The improvement and expansion of the Freeport and the ports of Buchanan, Greenville and Harper are critical to the expansion of business and industry in Liberia. We hope that Matilda and her team, in collaboration with the development partners, will expedite the fundraising initiative so that work on the development and expansion may begin soonest. The development partners include the Scandinavia-based NIRAS Group A/S, which helped NPA develop the master plan, the APM Terminals and the GOL.
Before the war the Freeport of Monrovia was one of the most preferred transshipment points in West Africa and business people and marketers from many parts of Africa, including Ghana and Zambia flocked here to purchase goods for sale in their various countries. The war caused us to lose all that and one of the leading beneficiaries was tiny Gambia. Businesspeople found the Port of Banjul ideal for the transshipment of goods to landlocked nations such as Mali, Niger and others in West and Central Africa.
Much work has been done on the Freeport in recent years. The removal of sunken ships, dredging, purchase of new equipment and the contracting of the port management to the experienced Dutch company APM Terminals have all been part of the initiatives that have improved the Freeport’s operations.
Dredging and other initiatives have also taken place at the Ports of Buchanan and Greenville, making them ready for the export of iron ore, timber and other products. Much more needs to be done at the Port of Greenville to make it ready for the export of iron ore by the time the Putu Mines in Grand Gedeh County come into production three years hence.
But we strongly believe that the most urgent project Matilda Parker and her team at the NPA have on their hands at this time is the building of the Port of Robertsport in Grand Cape Mount County. Why?
The reason, the Western Clusters iron ore mines are soon to come into production and urgently need an exit strategy for the export of its ore. The railway that the Liberia Mining Company built in the 1940s to ship its ore from Bomi Hills to the Freeport of Monrovia was destroyed during the war, and hundreds of people have since built in its path. The GOL has indicated that it will cost US$30 million to re-locate people who have built in the path of that railway. This is why Sesa Goa, the Indian company operating the Western Clusters Mines is pleading with government to allow it to ship the ore by truck through Duala, until the railway is rebuilt. This is a most unpopular move, causing shivers among people who live, work and travel in and through that Cape Mount- Bomi-Gbarpolu-Brewerville-Virginia-Bushrod Island corridor. Most people believe this is totally unfeasible not only because the heavy duty trucks transporting the ore would quickly damage the feeble highway from Bomi to the Freeport of Monrovia. The traffic congestion that already exists, especially as one approaches the St. Paul Bridge and Duala on Bushrod Island will be multiplied more than a hundredfold. The highway will be quickly destroyed and it will be next to impossible for anyone to travel there.
But the Liberian government insists on allowing the iron ore company to use the corridor because GOL desperately needs the money the company will pay for the ore.
The answer to this economic and practical dilemma is the port in Cape Mount. But first the proposition has to be studied and well planned; then the money and expertise must be found to build the port.
In the face of this immense and awesome challenge, no one envies Matilda Parker.