The Managing Director of Cameroon’s National Port Authority Calls for Modernization of the Douala Seaportmark
The Managing Director of the National Ports Authority in Cameroon, Josue Youmba has prescribed the modernization of infrastructure at the Douala seaport as a lasting solution to the current problems of congestion being faced by the port. In a one-to-two exchange with reporters of the authoritative weekly magazine program “Cameroon Calling” on the state radio, CRTV on Sunday August 10, Mr. Youmba did not only x-ray the problem of congestion but opened a window through which the future of the port industry in Cameroon could be seen.
Below are excerpts of the interview:
As General Manager of the National Ports Authority can you tell us what has been happening at the Douala seaport?
There is congestion at the port. By nature a port is a place where goods on import and export transit. But of late so many imported goods have not been cleared by the importers at the Douala port. By December all the warehouses at the port were full. The situation was further complicated by the fact that the gantry cranes that load and off load goods had problems. Ships are being forced to wait at the buoy base.
So part of the problem is lack of equipments?
Formerly, government was in charge of all port operations. But since the 1999 port reforms the management of some of these port operations were privatized. Unfortunately some of the private companies managing some of the activities have not been investing to match their equipments with the evolution of the volume of traffic at the port.
So what should the government do?
The Management of the Port Authority of Douala has to make sure that these private business concerns invest as per the prescriptions of the text that handed over the specific activities to them. Equally the National Port Authority should be empowered to go beyond supervision of the activities
Concretely what is the situation at the port at the moment?
There is congestion at the container and timber terminals of the Douala seaport. Don’t forget that Cameroon does not only export her own timber but timber from other countries. The current situation has been compounded by the political situation in the Central African Republic. When the crisis erupted in that country, the exportation of its timber was temporarily halted. When the situation began returning to normal, timber from there reached the Douala seaport in such quantities and a faster pace than the port could handle.
What is the way out?
The situation at the port is preoccupying. The health our economy depends on our external trade. That is why we are holding meetings with all stake holders to identify what each of them has to do as we explore possible and satisfactory solutions to the problem of congestion at the Douala port. We advise that businessmen should take into account the current situation at the port before booking their vessels. Again we are discussing with all the stakeholders and making prescriptions on what each of them is supposed to do to bring the situation to normal. If all of them respect these prescriptions, the situation at the Douala port will come back to normal by September.
Do you think the coming of the Kribi port will provide a solution to the current problem?
There are no guarantees that the coming of the Kribi port will provide a solution to the problem. The solution needs to come from the modernization of the Douala seaport. We need to sensitize importers to know that the seaport is not a warehouse where they have to stock their goods and only remove them in installments to supply to buyers.
Some observers believe that the Kribi port is being constructed to kill Douala
No! Instead, the Cameroon government has a plan to develop all its ports along the coast by 2045. Government needs all these ports to handle the volume of trade that the country will develop.
Recently you accompanied Board members of the National Port Authority to Kribi to evaluate construction work on the seaport in that city. What did you see?
We were happy to see that about 98% of work on the Kribi Industrial seaport complex has been finished. In about two months the port will be ready for activities.
What of the Limbe deep seaport?
The government has already chosen the site where the Limbe deep seaport shall be constructed. It will be at Isongo. Now the Cameroon government is currently negotiating with the Korean government for funding to construct this port. If everything goes on well, construction work may begin in six months. So if Cameroon eventually have Douala, Kribi and Limbe, it will be good for the country’s economy.
What of the Garoua port? Has it been abandoned?
No the port has not been abandoned. Its management has been entrusted to the Garoua City Council. The Garoua port is a seasonal port that operates only for about four months every year. It needs dredging to function very well. We are permanently in contact with the Government Delegate to the Garoua City Council who is looking for means to dredge the port.