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too many opportunities, too few tappers
Mr. Alphonso B. Gaye
What has been your career path until you became Managing Director of NPA?
I have been a business manager in construction, and I also did people's management. I worked for a British firm called Cubic Tarmac International, representing them here, in Dubai and several other countries. We were responsible for the construction of the O.A.U facilities in Liberia, and we did some work in Abuja, Nigeria. We worked for an international German company. I worked for the US Telephone Corporation; I worked for Caterpillar; I was working at the head office in New York. I also managed some private ventures in various sectors and then I came back to work for my country with the government, for the National Port Authority as Managing Director; I took over on the 13th of December 1999. I came in here and met a fine well seizing manpower. We have a lot of technocrats here; they are all internationally trained and second to none in their areas and despite the setback from the war, in the past 10 or 11 months, I am proud to say that we almost brought back the port to what it used to be prior to the war. I speak so because I have seen it, I feel it, and not only this port, but all of our ports. We have been rated and we still have the recognition from the international shipping world.
What has been the contribution of the NPA to the reconstruction program?
NPA is the main gateway to the prosperous economy of this nation. With the resources that we have been receiving, we have tried not to be selfish; we have been very supportive nationwide. So we have made and continue to make substantial contributions to our sister organizations within the confines of the Government. We are a Government entity although we are more commercial; therefore it is proper that we assist when it is relevant.
How would you characterize the ports' infrastructures in Liberia?
We have just come out of a bad situation of war, so we cannot deny that there is a great deal of work to be done to rehabilitate all infrastructure, but despite that we focus on the goals we have ahead, and we are optimistic about the perspectives of improvement.
Do you think the Port of Monrovia could be privatized in the near future?
It is possible. Our economists look at it and if it was to be beneficial to the Nation, I do not see any reasons not to do it.
Are you a strong partisan of privatization?
Yes, very much so.
What have been your major achievements since you came in office in December 1999?
We have increased the manpower about two thirds and we have increased the traffic flow by about 65%, from where it was standing at. We are second to none on the West coast as regards our turn around time, despite the lack of major equipments. We have been able to repair 90% of the equipment that had broken down and the operators are working fine. It has involved some spending but it was necessary to keep the port and the Nation economically viable. We have opened up avenues in the port; we are building new roads; we are clearing to establish container parks; we are reconstructing the operations warehouse for cargoes. We have also built a plaza in the confines of the port, with nine offices available there for companies like Maersk, Umarco, Scanship and others. We believe everything will be ready by the end of this month. We have cleared and built up the log yard. We have also intensified the security and safety measures. Finally, we have reinforced our communication system.
What makes NPA unique as a Government institution?
Mainly the quality of the manpower and the capacity of the NPA to generate its own resources.
How would you rate your relations with international partners?
I think we have a positive image of a good working force, being able to comply with the shipping regulations standards required by all our partners whether international, regional or local.
Is Monrovia still the gateway to neighboring markets?
The Free port of Monrovia is still the principal gateway. We drifted a whole lot during the crisis and people started to divert their ships to other countries, but over the last few months, trans-shipping and former partners have been coming back. We are also managing the overflow from Ivory Coast, and a lot of Sierra Leone. We are getting back to where we were.
What is your level of cooperation with Asian countries?
We have a very good relationship with Asia. A vast majority of the boats coming in are from Asia, we never had any problems with them, and we foresee an increase in our business. Asia for us is the center of the world business now, and tomorrow. We hope to do more business with them.
What would be your vision of the Port in five years time from now?
In the next five years, if we carry on following the same path, we should manage to catch up and even reach a higher level than prior to the war. I can see that happening for the sake of the Liberian people.
What message would you address to our readers?
Come and do business with Liberia. So many changes are taking place here now, you can be a part of it, do not sit and watch; being on the spot makes a lot of difference. We have lots of resources untapped waiting for investors; so do not hesitate.