Until his recent visit to Conakry, Guinea as a member of President George Manneh Weah's entourage, transforming the Free Port of Monrovia to make it affordable for good public service has been a major preoccupation of the Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA), Dr. Bill Tweahway since his ascendancy to the position.
The opportunity to see the Port of Conakry and sit with his managers has helped to reinforce the vision, as the NPA boss is now mulling enormous changes at the Port to reflect regional and existing realities in order to ease burdens importers or exporters face importing or clearing their goods from the Port.
"We have come to Guinea to look at the Port of Conakry and to find out why our people are coming to Guinea to import their goods, drive their goods from here for more than three days into Monrovia, rather than using the Free Port of Monrovia that is closed to them," Dr. Tweahway explained in a chat with reporters.
Judging from what he gathered in Guinea relative to the operations of the Port of Conakry, Dr. Tweahway said there was a strong need to act as urgently as possible to make the Free Port of Monrovia, Gateway to Liberia's economy, affordable for importers and exporters, most of whom are using alternative means to import or export their goods.
He said atop of his transformation agenda at the Port is the comprehensive review of the Agreement with APM Terminals that is at the center of public attention relative to charges and/or fees imposed on importers to clear their goods.
Dr. Tweahway said he intends to review the AMP Terminal Agreement with the hope to amend provisions that are said to have given the company undue advantage to increase import charges on goods coming into the country via the Free Port.
Most Liberians blame the huge charges or fees paid at the port to clear goods on the current economic constraints Liberians face, terming it as astronomical.
As found out, he discovered that the Port of Conakry was by far better off in terms of charges/fees and equipment than the situation at the Free Port of Monrovia.
He disclosed: "We gathered that the cost of importation or shipment of goods to Guinea is 50% less; so we have come to learn from the people of Guinea what are those hidden charges our people are running from and coming to Guinea."
Besides the huge gap in the charges leveled on goods, the NPA boss averred that the Port of Conakry was giving ten days free period to importers/exporters unlike the Free Port of Monrovia that gives five days free period to pay for goods/containers.
"I also saw a glaring point in Guinea that to offload goods from ships is quicker because they have gantry crane," he disclosed; "the crane takes about 20 containers or equipment at the same time from a ship; while we take three days to offload a ship in Liberia, the people of Guinea take three hours to offload.
We also looked at what do they pay for stevedoring, for demurrage, the tariffs and exempts they have to be able to inform the nation the difference between doing business at the Port of Conakry and the Free Port of Monrovia," he said.
According to him, it is in the interest of the nation to adopt the saying 'slow dime is better than a fast nickel' theory' to get Liberians using their port than the Port of Conakry.
Dr. Tweahway disclosed the Government of Guinea was willing to help, guide them in the process how to make the Free Port of Monrovia live up to its name as 'Free Port not expensive port.'
"The Guineans want our port live up to its name as Free Port thus enabling people from other parts of Sub-region importing or exporting their goods to use ours," Dr.Tweahway stated.
The NPA Boss who the Tubman University recently conferred Doctorate Degree vowed to take the necessary actions using every civil and diplomatic medium to ensure services the port renders are quality and affordable.
"The bottom line, our people deserve the best.
The current existing Agreement with APM Terminal needs to be reviewed", Dr. Tweahway pointed out.
Continuing, Dr. Tweahway said he will leave the NPA with a lasting legacy.