Tuesday, October 18, 2016: The Minister of Transport of the Republic of Liberia, Honorable Angela Cassell Bush, on Monday October 17, 2016 chaired an ECOWAS Ministerial Council Meeting in Lomé, Togo. The one-day Ministerial Council Meeting was organized by ECOWAS in collaboration with the Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FEWACCI). The gathering focused on the Regional Maritime Transport project (SEALINK) and intends to acquaint the Ministers on the project’s implementation status and to seek financial and policy supports to allow it to move onto its operationalization phase. The Meeting is also intended to adopt a resolution for the establishment of a Transnational Shipping Company. The proposed Shipping Company is envisaged as an efficient coastal transport system that will be an alternative transportation solution to the already challenged road transport system for the effective implementation of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) which was formulated in 1975 and revised in 1993. ETLS protocols on the free movement of goods are chiefly intended at eliminating all tariff and non-tariff barriers to regional trade and humanize safety and other standards.

Speaking during the Meeting, Minister Cassell Bush stressed the importance of the idea of coastal transportation as it will ultimately ease transportation of people, goods and services between member states by providing alternative to air and road transportation. She further stressed that she has enjoined Liberia’s experts particularly a representative from the National Port Authority to explore possibilities of how inland waterways of member states can also be utilized in the same manner.

Prior to the Ministerial Council Meetin, the project was presented to experts from member states fof the review, comments and recommendation to their Ministers on the way forward.

Proposals made by the Council of Ministers:

•    Fiscal incentives to be accorded to the proposed Sealink Company by all ECOWAS Member States;
•    Port Authorities in member-states to provide special berthing rights to  Sealink and other facilities            that would strengthen the company’s position as an intra ECOWAS trade facilitation tool;
•    Recommend Member States to take equity shares in Sealink as well as recommend to EBID to draw       practical modalities for its participation in the share capital of SEALINK.

Potential Benefits of the Project:

•    Ease movement of people and goods within the ECOWAS Member States;
•    Development of inland water transportation (e.g. Water taxis) as an effective alternative to decongest         land transport;
•    Provide alternative route to road and air transport
•    Facilitate trade amongst member states;

Resolution reached at the Ministerial Council Meeting:

I.     Update feasibility studies as soon as possible and make this available to the Ministers, through the         ECOWAS Commission;
II.    ECOWAS and FEWACCI should recognize joint mission to the Member States to inform and                    sensitize potential investors and the decision-makers on this project;

III.    EBID and FEWACCI should, together, define a key for apportionment of the shares, taking into                      account  the recommendations of the protocol on creation of community enterprise;
IV.    The decision concerning the headquarters of Sealink should be referred to the Authorities of Heads          of  State and Government;
V.    The meeting agreed to grant the observer status to Morocco.