The Sierra Leone Ports Authority (SLPA) is spearheading the growth of Sierra Leone’s international trade. Sierra Leone’s port is the largest natural port in Africa and the third largest in the world, and its revenues – which now total over €9 million per year – have a major impact on Sierra Leone’s GDP.
Since 2005, SLPA has been doing an exemplary job restructuring and upgrading the port’s operations with the support of the World Bank. SLPA is currently privatising some of the port’s separate business units in order to upgrade performance, and this initiative is creating outstanding opportunities for private investors.
Bolloré acquires container services concession
Captain Benjamin O.N. Davies, General Manager, explains that in a show of confidence in SLPA and in Sierra Leone’s future, a leading French shipping group Bolloré has acquired a 20 year concession for the port’s container services; Bolloré will invest around €90 million in the port, including €15 million in the first two years, which will lead to major upgrades in the port’s infrastructure as well as a boost for the local economy.
Bolloré was the preferred bidder for the issuance of the license for the operation of the break bulk terminal which is adjacent to the container terminal at the Port of Freetown. Contract negotiations are due to commence this year.
SLPA aims to serve as the port’s overseer, focusing on ensuring world class standards. Benjamin Davies says, “We eventually want all the operations at the port to be handled by the private sector.”
SLPA’s long-term goal for the Port of Sierra Leone is to position it as a leading regional port. Benjamin Davies explains, “We need to increase the depth of our channel to allow bigger ships to come in; enhance safety; and ensure that there is adequate investment in terms of equipment, infrastructure and warehousing. Equipment is most important because efficiency and performance indicators can only be achieved with modern equipment. We also need to address our human capacity gaps and employ the latest information technologies in order to catch up with other ports, both regionally and globally.”
SLPA anticipates strong growth for the port as West Africa increasingly serves as the preferred route for shipments between Asia and the Americas, given rising costs at the Suez Canal. Benjamin Davies concludes, “Our port must exploit its natural advantages: its strategic location and deep natural harbour. Sierra Leone is the only country in the world which is equidistant from South America, the Cape of Good Hope, North America and Europe.”