Maritime industry pundits have called on present and subsequent administrations to, as a matter of prime significance, detail their plans for Ghana’s Blue Economy with ‘the Black Star Line’ in focus.
According to them, not only will the resurrection of the Black Star fill the gap for intra-Africa maritime transport, it will also significantly augment the nation’s revenues and provide employment for many.
Ghana’s state-owned maritime enterprise, the Black Star Line, was one of many economic ventures that instilled pride in Ghanaians. Yet, like other state-owned enterprises that sprang up after independence, it succumbed to corruption and incompetence and has collapsed as a result.
Decades after being out of business, many within the maritime sector believe the Government of Ghana can revive the defunct shipping line, or create a semblance of that.
Jacob Agyemang – the Convener of think-tank, the Transport Forum, and Ephraim Asare – the Vice President in charge of Maritime at the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), Ghana, are among the latest to call for a national shipping line.
Speaking on the Eye on Port programme, they contended that Ghana is in a good position to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area to offer cost-efficient maritime transport services across Africa’s coastline.
“The extractive industry in the western enclave which has our bauxite, manganese and gold, the Jubilee oil fields, our agriculture produce, among others, could all benefit from
a national shipping line to cart our goods,” Mr. Asare added.
The industry pundits claim that Ghanaians are qualified to operate and manage vessels, and what is crucial for government is to foster a climate that will encourage investment from the private sector.
“The former Nautical College, which has metamorphosed into the Regional Maritime University, was there to train and build the human capacities to man the vessels of the Black Star Line. That institution is still there training different personnel with skills. We have seasoned professionals who are now deployed in other countries,” Mr. Asare indicated.
He urged Ghana to learn from the success stories of the likes of Singapore and Malaysia, who have built a buoyant and sustainable maritime industry on the back of targetted policies.
“In Singapore, it is the port that is making that country,” he emphasised.
He said government should enter private-public partnerships, taking inspiration from the investments made by MPS and the Ibistek Group in port development.
Mr. Jacob Agyemang, on the other hand, was keen on Ghana’s private sector to be trusted in this light.
“When it comes to the PPP agreement, I think that is the way to go. My only challenge is where we may involve foreigners. I am not against foreign investment but for the purposes of national pride, we should be able to trust the Ghanaian. We want a Ghanaian PPP arrangement. When it comes to this industry, I do not subscribe to the idea of Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) because most of those agreements do not favour Ghanaians. The Ghanaians do not acquire the technical skills they were promised before the contract is over.”
He also said government, in this case, should only serve as policy-maker, and allow professionals and technocrats to run the company to avoid needless interference.
“If you do not run the Black Star Line as an enterprise and we see it as a political cow to milk, it will fail as it did.”
The Convener for the Transport Forum touted the accomplishments of Ethiopia and encouraged Ghana to emulate the Eastern African nation.
“1964 is when Ethiopia started. As we speak today, they have well over 400 vessels, of which over 300 are cargo vessels. They did it with transparency, commitment and government support,” he said.
According to the passionate patriots, the ‘Black Star Line’, if revived and run properly, will enable Africa to compete fairly in the Atlantic, ridding the continent of the monopoly run by the big multinational firms.