Though the Liberian maritime program has sailed through tumultuous times since its establishment in 1948 by former United States Secretary of State Edward Stettinius, it has been a major breadbasket for the struggling nation. It has not let the country’s economy down even in the darkest of times. Of all it has been, the then Bureau of Maritime Affairs now Liberia Maritime Authority is a critical linchpin in Liberia’s recovery and development, contributing between US$10m and US$20m annually to the nation’s coffer since the last seven years. There still are great opportunities in stock as there are challenges. The Authority yesterday appeared before the public platform at the Ministry of Information’s regular press briefing and reported to the nation how it has fared. The Analyst reports.
The current management of the Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA) has been showcasing the long, winding road of the country’s maritime sector along with its transformation and unmatched growth in the last few years under the Sirleaf administration.
During Information Ministry’s regular press briefing, a forum that has become a major public relations stunt of Government, the Binyah C. Kesselly, Commissioner/CEO of LiMA, recounted the history of the Authority, which was actually a bureau, and reported its success story, challenges and opportunities.
Following years of problems, the LiMA chief said since 2006 the Government of Liberia has sought to restructure the Program based on prior challenges and recommendations by several players since there was a change in the flow of funds, to include a direct linkage with the MOF as the GOL weighed its options.
He reported that the then BMA attempted to transition to an Authority, and submitted a draft Act to the National Legislature by the end of 2007 and in 2008, the President set a clear, new agenda for the International Registry, one that subscribed to three main tenets: Greater Revenue Sharing, More Liberian Participation and Greater Transparency.
Binyah Kesselly said President Sirleaf’s vision suggests that Liberia must now start to strategically focus on areas within the maritime sector that either have a direct or tangential maritime impact on the national (and global) economy. It also suggests that we must begin to expand into areas that may seem outside the realm of the prototypical maritime sector.
Pointing to concrete achievement made by the LiMA under his leadership, the Maritime chief spoke of a establishment of the Division of Coastal and Inland Waterways, coordinating Search and Rescue Communications for five West African Nations (Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, La Cote d’Ivoire, and Ghana) and establishing Marine Environmental capabilities to enhance the protection of our Maritime Domain.
Commissioner Kesselley also said recounted efforts aimed at developing National Safety Regulations for Recreational Beach and Waterway Establishments; developing Safety Regulations and Policies for Artisanal Transport vessels; and identifying Marine culture and Seawater Desalination Technologies for industry growth opportunities.
The Beaches and Waterways Project, the LiMA boss, reported in a PowerPoint presentation has brought employment to nearly 2,000 people in various beach communities.
The Kesselley-led LiMA also facilitated a Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Seafarer’s Union & NOS Shipping Management of Singapore for employment of up to 16 Liberian Seafarers; developing the first ever Maritime Safety and environmental Regulations for the Oil and Gas Industry.
The administration, he said, also developed and implemented the first ever Maritime electronic Human Resource Database; Developed and implemented a complete next generation IT system for deployment of ERP and completed a Water Transportation Plan to connect various inland waterways within the Republic (looking at Coastal transport as well).
According to the LiMA boss, the organization has supported Liberia’s human resource capacity building process by providing over 300 domestic scholarships to students: seven Universities; high Schools in 10 counties, paid WAEC Fees for 2000 Students in Junior and Senior via Televised National Lottery Program: 50 Students per school, for 40 Schools nationally (mainly Leeward Counties)
He reported further LiMA’s participation in the Coastal Surveillance Flight program with UNMIL (Operation Horizon); building internal capacity, including 8 staff out of the country for advanced degrees and several Maritime Security trained abroad for better efficiency.
Despite the hordes of accomplishments by the Kesselley-led LiMA, the country’s Maritime sector faces a number of challenges, including what the agency’s chief called misconceptions based on perceptions of the past activities of Maritime.
Kesselley said other challenges include the lack of appropriate funding for Technology, Infrastructure and Logistics; coastal Surveillance, Monitoring, as well as search and Rescue deployment capabilities.
He said there are interruptions in funding major projects and initiatives, and the sector faces a skeptical society, saying “people’s first inclination is to not trust that we will do the right thing.
According to him, there are also weak domestic enforcement capabilities; and unfavorable media publications/programs – driven by Liberians.