By Mbom Sixtus
Regaining shippers from Chad and CAR who have moved away from the Douala port would be beneficial for mutual development.
The N'Djamena Tripartite Forum of Ports Communities of Cameroon, Chad and the Central African Republic which took place last week was prompted by a radical drop in freight transit from the Douala Port to landlocked countries in the Central African sub region.
Figures from the Port Authority of Douala show since 2014, freight transit along the Douala-N'Djamena (Chad) and Douala-Bangui (CAR) corridors dropped to 400,000 tons per year as against 1,000,000 tons per year in the past.
It emerged from the forum that shippers from landlocked Chad and CAR ditched the Douala seaport in favour of competing ports like Point Noire in Congo, Port Sudan, in Sudan and Port Cotonou in Benin. They escaped hurdles along the Cameroonian corridors which they considered too many.
During the tripartite forum in the Chadian capital from December 12-14 2017, members of National Shippers Council of Chad and CAR were given room to outline the hurdles.
They disclosed their discontentment with irregularities in Cameroon railway transport, extortions and bottlenecks on road checkpoints as well as many other institutional and infrastructural shortcomings.
The General Manager of the Port Authority of Douala, Cyrus Ngo'o in his quest to re-conquer the market by rendering the Port of Douala efficient, competitive and attractive organized the tripartite forum in his capacity of Port Community President. He took a commitment to solve the problems raised during the forum.
Among some of the solutions suggested by the shippers were preferential treatment to transit traffic; optimized management of port equipment, improvement of CAMRAIL's commercial offer; improvement of road infrastructure, harmonization of the port's weighing systems and that of weighing stations along the corridors.
Implementing the recommendation of the forum would certainly reroute Chad and CAR shippers from other ports to the Douala and Kribi ports in Cameroon. This would revive the flow of business transactions needed to fast-track economic development in the Central African sub-region currently in a chokehold.