By State House Communication Unit
President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma on Wednesday January 24th turned the sod for the expansion of the Queen Elizabeth II Port in Freetown.
Speaking at the ceremony, the president said that the decision of government to privatize the container section, the break bulk terminal and other aspects of the ports was in acknowledgement of the fact that development is a tough process that requires capital, expertise and modern equipment rather than mere political grandstanding. “And this is because the modernization and expansion of our Port, which is Sierra Leone’s main trading gateway, has been integral to our national transformation. It reflects my government’s emphasis on own revenue generation which is why we chose to attract partnerships and investments that would better tap on the potentials of our ports,” he informed.
President Koroma pointed out that the partnership between the Sierra Leone Ports Authority (SLPA) and NECTAR on the one hand, and Sierra Leone Ports Authority and TIDFORE on the other, is aimed at enhancing and building the infrastructure that will enable and aid higher standards in port service delivery. This project, he said, is strategically aligned to support the country’s international competitiveness by addressing especially the high cost of sea transport, constraints of travel and logistical shipment business to and from Sierra Leone. He also said that the project will upgrade the sea port infrastructure, through the installation of cranes and expansion of berthing facilities to accommodate modern and world class shipping vessels.
The head of state further noted that the investment will transform Sierra Leone into an ideal transshipment hub, optimizing the output of the port, saying that government has taken this path because container transshipment determines the future in logistics business as it relates to intercontinental liner services with economic benefits such as job creation, and rapid growing tax revenues. “Transshipment allows for larger ships with lower shipping costs per unit, to serve ports not equipped to accommodate bigger ships. The direct impact will be the cost of freight to Sierra Leone without using additional transit ports in Europe. But in our case, our port will also be used as a transit port to Europe and South American Markets,” President Koroma said.
Minister of Transport and Aviation Leonard Balogun Koroma, in his statement, disclosed that President Koroma has turned the Queen Elizabeth II Port into a works yard with three transformational Port Extension Projects going on at the same time: (1) Bollore Freetown Terminal 1 Berth Container Port Extension which is 70% complete valued at $120 million; (2) NECTAR 1 Berth Port Extension to redevelop and expand the Bulk and Break Terminal values at $18.5 million and (3) TIDFORE Queen Elizabeth II Transshipment Port Extension Project, including the construction of Four (4) Berths to accommodate over Fifty Thousand DWT Vessels, three of which will be for containers and one for Ro-ro Vessels and break bulk. Minister Koroma further said that the Ro-ro will also contain an international state of the art ferry terminal. TIDFORE, he disclosed, will construct an eight storey modern administrative building for Sierra Leone Ports Authority as part of the agreement.
The Chief Executive Officer of TIDFORE Tan Lang assured that his company will live up to expectations of everybody, to build the project according to international standards. “With this opportunity, we will contribute values for both parties, clients and society, and make active contribution to the economy and social development for both Sierra Leone and China,” he said.
David Ben Lulu, Chairman of National Ports Development Company said the transshipment port will put Sierra Leone on the central map of West Africa. He also noted that it will be the deepest port that can accommodate the biggest container vessel as well as serve all neighbouring countries, including landlocked countries for the most efficient cost effective logistical shifting in maritime transportation. According to Mr Ben Lulu, the new port will create thousands of new direct jobs, including numerous jobs created during the construction and operation stages. “This port will be the economic “Game Changer” for the government and for the great nation of Sierra Leone,” he said.
The General Manager of Sierra Leone Ports Authority Abu Bangura said in his overview of the operations of the port that the vision of the SLPA is to transform the Port of Freetown into a transshipment hub in the sub-region. He also indicated that the Queen Elizabeth II Quay is uniquely placed as a natural harbour as well as equidistance between South America and Europe. “It is also very close in distance to landlocked countries like Mali and Burkina Faso who currently utilize Ports in Senegal and Togo for their import and export activities. This new berth by NECTAR and the four berths to be constructed by TIDFORE will enable the Ports to achieve its strategic vision,” he maintained.
Chairman of the National Commission for Privatization (NCP) Sulaiman Kabba Koroma said the project is strategically aligned to support Pillar 4 (International Competitiveness) of the Agenda for Prosperity, adding that the project will not only be a major infrastructural investment but also increase revenues considerably for the Government and people of Sierra Leone as well as improve investors’ confidence to do business in the country. “Today’s twin commissioning of the NECTAR Port Terminal Expansion and the proposed construction of the Transshipment Terminal by the National Ports Development Company by His Excellency President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma underscores the commitment of his administration to expand the economic outlook of the country through viable capital investments from the private sector,” Sulaiman Kabba Koroma said.
In his brief remarks, British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone Guy Warrington said the United Kingdom has always been committed to Sierra Leone, saying that the UK was committed when the quay was built, during the civil war, and the Ebola outbreak. He assured of the UK government’s continued support to Sierra Leone and encouraged private sector partners to continue to do business in the country.
Chinese Ambassador WU Peng said that over the decades, China and Sierra Leone have been devoting their utmost efforts to cooperate for common development and win-win results. “We are good friends, good partners and brothers,” he noted and went on to maintain that the upgrading project will greatly enhance the cargo-handling capacity and regional competitiveness and attract more vessels to come. With this, he said, Freetown will gradually achieve the strategic goal of becoming the shipping center of West Africa and Sierra Leone will benefit a lot from the port. “No matter how the international landscape may change, the resolve of China and Sierra Leone to pursue unity and win-win cooperation will never change! China’s support for Sierra Leone’s peace and development will never change!”