– PMAWCA e-News : What do you think of the cost of clearing cargo in the Africa zone of West and Central Africa?
Dr Yann Alix : First of all, your question requires a clarification of what the components of the cost of clearing cargo through African ports are and then assess if these costs are commensurate to the quality and service received in exchange for the price paid. The last decade has witnessed an increase in competition amongst West African ports but with no concrete effect on the total cost paid on imports, exports or goods in transit. In actual fact, the cost of clearing cargo has increased a bit with the cost of gantry cranes and terminals which had to be adjusted to accommodate the investment efforts of private operators. Clearly, clearing costs in West African ports remains relatively expensive because the levels of quality and services offered are not in correlation to the price paid. It goes without saying that the situation is yet to improve but has room to be perfected and must be motivated with import and export volume and constant growth, for 15 years now. (Despite the successive international crisis).
– PMAWCA e-News: In your opinion, what are the efforts that have been made and what remains to be done by our port authorities and port organizations in the context of implementation of policies and reduction in cargo clearing cost?
Dr Yann Alix : Modernisation of the port authority passes through the adaptation of its tariff policy and its business practices. Today, the ports have a policy that favours the vessel than the cargo. In other words, costs of clearing in West African ports aim to attract and retain the armaments and their fleets. All the port authorities evaluate their prominence by the number of vessels and services in order to attract maximum port privileges and related charges. However, I think that sources of financing port authorities should be complemented with better space management and ability to develop spaces for logistics close to marine terminals. This diversification of funding sources would balance the tariff policy of the port authorities. This approach is still the least used by the authorities except in some situations to reduce port congestion by load shedding which is not necessarily profitable.
– PMAWCA e-News: What are the practical solutions that you can propose to our port authorities in order to reduce cost of clearing cargo? Kindly discuss
Dr Yann Alix : West African ports have made great progress. Permit me to clarify further with an illustration and a project. This illustration is based on establishing and usage of information systems and the dematerialization of procedures linked to the import, export and transit of cargo. From Dakar to Cotonou, many ports have initiated reforms to make effective management of cargo clearance easier. Observers applaud this progress, but presently, this does not automatically translate to a reduction in the cost of clearing cargo. When the collection of duties and taxes is significantly improved, it will also be important to redistribute these revenue through investments. A port authority must continue to improve on information management of its operations to have a clearer assessment of its revenue thereby making tariff policies and incentives attractive. These points in my opinion, will make the port authorities more effective.
Logistics remains the interface solution between the ports and land transport. The port authorities must be instruments of visionary strategies that will orchestrate logistical efficiency that trails private transport coordinators. West African Ports are protective of the landlocked countries. I think this must be further exploited by the ports management who should strategically take charge of the before and after position of cargo. Considering the dematerialised management procedures, it is mandatory to extend the efforts at the port community level throughout the logistics corridors. It is a considerable project which requires highly skilled personnel, who possess the vision to improve the West African port and its transport network. It will take time and political courage to initiate such reforms. The port authorities have a crucial role to play, both from the public institutions, to operators and private investors.
– PMAWCA e-News: Thanks a lot for your unfailing commitment in the development of African Ports.
Dr Yann Alix: Thank you too for your confidence.