How ports in Africa and Asia are tackling common challenges

25 November 2020
News

Ports can practically benefit from mentoring and training under UNCTAD's port management programme.

The 8th edition of UNCTAD’s port management series spotlights the top work done by TrainForTrade graduates from Ghana, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria and the Philippines.

The efficiency of a port directly affects the economic prospects of the countries it serves, given that more than 80% of goods traded worldwide are carried by sea and thus handled by ports.

“A port can only be as efficient as the people who work in it,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said.

An UNCTAD report presented on 24 November spotlights case studies on how some ports in Africa and Asia are tackling today’s most common challenges, including cargo handling operations, land and waste management, digitalization and employee turnover.

The studies were done by participants of UNCTAD’s TrainForTrade port management programme in Ghana, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria and the Philippines.

“The programme is a real on-the-job training for port and transport officials adding tremendous value,” said Shamika N. Sirimanne, UNCTAD’s director of trade and logistics.

“Participants are required not only to learn the material but also to immediately put the knowledge gained into practice to help improve an aspect of how their port is managed,” she said.

Return on investment

The TrainForTrade programme coaches mid-level officials, from port authorities and other transport and logistics operators, on the principal aspects of modern port management.

To graduate, they must assess a concrete problem in their port and present a roadmap for resolving it in a way that is deemed feasible by senior management, who often take the projects onboard.

For example, in Johor Port in Malaysia, a proposal emerging from one of the case studies to reduce freshwater usage by collecting rainwater could save the port $3,000 annually. It could also contribute to Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG), on clean water and sanitation, by reducing the usage of a million litres of fresh water every year.

Another case study by one of the participants working at the Ghana Ports and Harbour Authority shows that collection and recycling of waste oil from port operators has helped the country’s Takoradi port to comply with international environmental management standards (ISO 14001) and contributed to SDG14 (on protecting life below water).

Transfer of knowledge

The case studies are the high point of a two-year course that has already certified more than 3,000 officials in over 200 ports operating in three dozen countries worldwide.

“The modern port management course is a good platform for acquiring vast knowledge and experience. Participants learn many relevant skills and best practices,” said Jay Daniel R. Santiago, general manager at the Philippine Port Authority, which participates in the programme.

His assistant general manager Hector Miole agrees: “Much as the programme requires a lot of time from middle managers in our port, who must also continue doing their daily tasks, it’s worth it because it can lead to immediate improvements.”  

The research process begins when participants select a senior manager as a mentor to coach them as they conduct their case studies.

“Past results show that the involvement of a mentor highly increases the chances that the research will be practical and in line with senior management’s priorities,” said Irish ports representative John Moore.

Ireland plays a key role in supporting the programme and knowledge transfer from its experts to other managers in ports across the world.

“It also helps create a culture within the port that fosters the transfer of knowledge,” Mr. Moore added.

Port management series

UNCTAD’s TrainForTrade Port Management Series is published annually, alternating between case studies produced in either the English, French or Spanish-speaking networks of the programme. The current volume is the 8th edition.

The TrainForTrade programme has built partnerships with European ports that share their experience and expertise with participating ports in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The English network is supported by Irish Aid, Dublin Port Company, the Port of Cork Company and Belfast Harbour Commissioners.

South-South cooperation is also a cornerstone of the programme, with senior managers from ports in developing countries serving as course instructors and helping with the assessment of case studies in other nations.

Delivering more than just port performance

Ports are key facilitators of international trade and many of the papers featured new series demonstrate just how seriously port managers take their responsibilities when it comes to making an impact in their port communities and achieving the SDGs.

This volume lists 15 cases where contributions to one or more SDGs are clearly identifiable. They include contributions to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in ports and surrounding communities. Also, nine of the 15 case studies have been authored by women.

“Empowering women is a must. Our management is very open to nurturing gender equality and UNCTAD’s programme gives women at the port a concrete chance to work on key challenges,” said Norzie Ramlan a participant from Malaysia. “And when you give us opportunities, we can deliver.”