Business News of Saturday, 1 December 2018
McDan Group – a shipping, freight forwarding and logistics giant – is in talks with government to revamp the nation’s defunct shipping line, the Black Star Line.
Daniel McKorley, Chief Executive Officer of the McDan Group, told the B&FT in an interview that his company has been given the nod by government to proceed with the necessary steps to revamping the shipping line, which was a pride of Ghana when it was operational after independence till it collapsed in the early 90s.
“Government has given the nod to McDan to revamp the Black Star Line, and you will soon see it happening. We have acquired four vessels to start with and we are also in partnership with a European vessels line,” he said.
Successive governments have made several attempts to revamp the national shipping line, but plans could not materialise. Former President John Mahama, in 2016, announced that he was working with relevant stakeholders to establish the shipping line so as to improve marine trade and transport between Ghana and other parts of the world.
Since the announcement, the Association of Maritime Professionals has expressed its resolve to pursue revamping the shipping line in order to facilitate economic growth.
The association contends it will pin-down factors – including the lack of commitment by successive governments – that led to the company’s collapse.
Addressing a press conference at Tema in 2016, the first Vice-President of the Association, Engineer Teddy Mensah, said it is important for government to focus on a complete development of the maritime sector as it benefits are enormous.
“Much as we appreciate the desire of government to try and revamp the national shipping line and the dry dock, we like the proverbial Oliver Twist would like to ask for more… our appeal to government is that the desire should translate into a mission and a vision to achieve the ultimate for betterment of the maritime industry in Ghana, and realisation of the socio-economic benefits it brings,” he stated.
According to the sea-farers: “The benefits to Ghana will include multifaceted economic gains, job creation, wealth creation, improved GDP; international recognition and improved livelihoods for Ghanaians – especially the impoverished communities along the Volta River, as well as realising the dreams of this nation Founding fathers,” Teddy Mensah stated.
The Black Star Line, established shortly after independence in 1957, became the first national shipping line formed as part of other development vehicles bankrolled by the state as a statement of national empowerment in marine trade alongside other projects: such as the Tema and Takoradi Ports, the Tema Shipyard and Dry Dock Company, the Regional Maritime University (RMU) and the State Fishing Corporation.
But the idea behind the birth of the Black Star Line – to spearhead the maximisation of resources in the shipping and marine sector – was cut short when the vessels became defunct due to, among others, government’s interference in the operation of vessels; poor management and marketing strategies; as well as a lack of innovation and biased cargo agents selling to foreign carriers for personal gains, among others.
In the late 70s, the BSL owned some of the top 16,000 tonne vessels that used to export goods like cocoa from Tema Port to other countries. The absence of a national shipping line means goods have to be carried by private shipping lines which sometimes charge exorbitant bills.