Unblocking Douala Port, a Collective Engagement

This situation reached its highest peak since 2013. Authorities of the port have been decrying an overlapping of storage estimated at 12 million tons. In effect, to go by the latest figures, the port as at June 08 is hosting 2,502 containers that have outlived their stay at the port, deposited more than three months ago. This state of affairs is a result of the growing economy of the countries of the CEMAC sub region translated by the medley of projects under execution. Cameroon and Chad for instance have initiated and are effectively involved in the execution of several giant projects necessitating a substantial increase in the amount of goods imported through the port.

The situation is further worsened by the comportment of business people and some organisations many of whom have virtually transformed the port into a warehouse. The Director of Communication and Cooperation of the Douala Ports Authority, Nchechuma Banla has been very categorical about it the port is simply a transit point and not a place where people keep goods. What is happening at the Douala port certainly leaves no one indifferent and that is why all stakeholders are being urged to put hands on deck to remedy the situation which is almost going out of hand. This would certainly not be otherwise considering that some countries, particularly landlocked nations have been threatening to leave the port of Douala in favour of other ports if nothing is done to improve the situation.

But this has not happened yet and may not even happen considering the vantage position the port of Douala has over others. An important mission led by the Minister of Transport is just back from N’Djamena where it went to explain the measures Cameroon is taking to unblock the port and ease operations. One of such measures the decision to auction overdue containers, is already yielding fruits. The auction sale operation that commenced April 20 targets containers and vehicles that have exceeded 90 days at the parking lot of the port.

Statistics handed to Cameroon Tribune by authorities of the Customs department speak of 102 containers already cleared as well as 52 abandoned vehicles as at May 30. Unlike in the past when the auction sale was organised twice a year, the operation has become continuous, the reason being that everyday goods attain the maximum delay of 90 days. The Douala port, according to Felicien Mballa, the Director in charge of the operation receives at least 700 containers every day against 350 to 400 cleared.

The operation to clear the port seems to be entering an important stage but from every indication the fight ought to go beyond simple clearing of “abandoned containers.” Two very important projects, the Kribi and Limbe Deep Seaports, appear to be an emergency if a lasting solution must be given to the problem. A delay in the execution of these projects will only worsen things. In effect, the volume of goods, especially from CEMAC countries has not stopped increasing. In fact, between 2007 and 2014 goods transiting to CEMAC countries jumped from 379,000 tons to 732,000 tons, 79 per cent of which are to and from Chad.

These figures are certainly alarming and require serious engagement from all the actors concerned with activities in the port. The time to save the port from asphyxiation is now not tomorrow.

Source : Cameroon Tribune

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