Sunday, April 10, 2016

SAILING TO CASABLANCA...... In search of an African Shipping Line

Edmund Mingle
Back from Dakhla, Morocco

The absence of an African Regional Shipping Line will continue to negatively affect regional integration efforts and intra-African trade.

And the shipping line, which is urgently needed to support the economies of African countries, and optimize opportunities in the maritime industry, can be built through the collaborative effort of all African countries.

This is the conclusion reached at an international forum of experts in the maritime industry at the just ended Crans Montana Forum held in Dakhla, Morocco.

The forum on maritime, which was part of panel discussions held onboard a cruise ship, Grand Navy Vessel (GNV) Rhapsody, while sailing from Dakhla to Casablanca, in Moroccan waters, had the sub theme, “Improving the maritime industry’s global impact on the African economy.”
The maritime forum in session on the GNV Rhapsody while sailing from Dakhla to Casablanca
The Crans Montana Forum, which was attended about a thousand participants from 131 countries and representatives of 27 regional and international organizations, had the general theme, “Africa and south-south cooperation: towards a better governance for sustainable economic and social development.”

Participants at the maritime forum, which included managers of sea ports and shipping organisations, as well as policy makers, business leaders, members of academia and economic think tanks across Africa, were unanimous in their call for a continental shipping line, without which African would continue to exploited by vessels from other continents especially Europe.

The participants believed that in view of the fact that all the national shipping lines which were vibrant few decades ago have collapsed, except a few one such as Ethiopia and Kenya which are also limping, there was the need for regional shipping fleet that help to reduce the current high cost of maritime transport.
 They indicated although Africa has the highest freight, it remained more expensive to ship cargo from one African country in the south to another in the north, than to a location in Europe, due to the fact that European vessels have to be used.

“Africa needs to rebuild its fleet,” said Adamou Saley Secretary General of the Union of African Shippers Councils.

According to Mrs. Cisse Fatoumata, Director General of the Guinean Naval Company, none of the top 20 shipping companies operating in Africa, belong to Africa, a situation which has contributed to the highest cost of shipment for Africans.

“If we really want to do business in the spirit of regional cooperation and integration, then we should be thinking of our continental shipping line,” she said.

Although the participants admitted that the cost of building a shipping line was too huge for any single country to handle, they believed it can be done through regional collaborative effort.

Mohammed Margaoui, President of MICG International Consulting Group, believed governments could marshal resources from their private sectors for the continental project which would be of immense benefit to the region.
The participants sailed on the GNV Rhapsody from Dakhla to Casablanca 

“Africa has billionaires who can be mobilised to support the project, and be assured of the safety of their investment,” he noted, adding that this could be done “in the spirit of regional integration.”

Mrs. Naa Densua Aryeetey, Head of Shipper Services at the Ghana Shippers’ Council, for her part, indicated that Africa has the needed human resource capacity for the maritime industry, and the availability of national and continental shipping lines could provide jobs for many graduates in the sector.

Mrs. Aryeetey, who is also the Africa Director for the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association, was confident that many of the investment and job creation opportunities in the maritime industry could be harnessed through an effective regional collaboration.

Apart from the quest for a regional shipping fleet, the forum also discussed measures for improvement of hinterland connections through the use of multi-modal sea, lake, rail and road transport systems.

New challenges for port development were also identified with the objective of linking ports with rail to serve landlocked countries in the interest of regional integration.

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