Successive governments have for the past couple of years made frantic efforts to revamp the national air line carrier Ghana airways after its collapse. Governments indeed have tried many times to the point of even re branding and changing the carriers’ name to Ghana International Airline but still couldn’t save it from extinction .
In fact, very recently, the government has once again made mention of its intentions to revamp the national air carrier and the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) has also reiterated its readiness to partner government to make this a success. Having a national air line undoubtedly, is very important to the national developments, however considering the number of times stakeholders have tried and still failed , one may wonder “what about a national shipping line”?
A couple of decades ago, the country used to own its own vessels through the national shipping line known as the Black Star Line (BSL). The BSL owned lots of vessels that embarked upon regular sailing schedules around the world. In the late 70’s the BSL owned some of the top 16000 tonner vessels that marshaled export commodities like cocoa from those big silos around the Tema port to be exported to other countries. Vessels like Keta, Tano, Sissili and the Volta flew the national flag and carried with it the identity and pride of the nation to which ever port they called.
The Black Star Line however couldn’t stand the test of time due to what some experts believed to be the results of poor leadership coupled with corruption and poor corporate governance robbing the once enviable shipping line of its pride.
Ever since the collapse of this once famous shipping line, with the sale of its ships and assets and its office complex taken over by freight forwarders whiles its staff integrated themselves as much as they can with the other sectors of the shipping industry, no government (I stand to be corrected) has made any effort to revamp the national shipping line irrespective of the enormous benefits it would bring to the country.
In fact many nations around the globe have revolutionized their economy by strategically harnessing the opportunities in the maritime industry eg. Singapore and Panama. Singapore, a nation with little natural resources for instance has evolved from a small regional ship repair and building center into a world class shipping and maritime hub by optimizing maritime transport and logistics.
Ghana is a major import based economy, importing a greater percentage of the goods and services used in the country as well as exporting a great amount of raw materials in the form of timber, cocoa, bauxite etc. The absence of a national shipping line sometimes means that goods would have to be carried by private shipping lines who in the interest of maximizing profits have to make other port calls prolonging the sea leg journey of the nations imports or exports, adding extra cost to the final price of the goods. For instance a typical cargo originating from somewhere in Asia and destined for Ghana would have to go through Europe where it is re-stowed (re handled) to be transshipped to Ghana. Note that, re handling may cause damage to cargo whiles extra handling cost is also incorporated in the total cost of shipments making the price of the final product in Ghana more expensive.
Also, an institution like the Regional Maritime University trains lots of professionals like marine engineers and other related maritime professionals. With the absence of a national shipping line , some of this professionals end up working on foreign vessels worsening the “brain drain” scenario in the country.
In conclusion, whiles a national air line carrier is important to the developments of the country, so too is a national sea carrier and stake holders after trying multiple times to revamp the national airline should also start considering the acquisition of modern ocean liners to revamp the national shipping line too.
Ghana airways has been given much attention over the past couple of years and has still not lived up to expectation so why not the Black Star Line?
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