The Deputy Minister of Transport and Aviation, Rex Bhonapha, was the head of a delegation that held fruitful discussions in Egypt with officials of the Egyptian Maritime Administration on the 20th March, 2023.
Received by Rear Admiral Hussein Moustafa el Geziry, Chairman of the Egyptian Authority for Maritime Safety in Alexandria together with Rear Admiral Mohamed Farouk El Samahi, Vice Chairman EAMS, Captain Ehab Ebada , Head of Central Department, Consultant Ahmed Fatoh, General Manager of General Department of Legal Affairs and other senior members of the institution at the head office in Alexandria on Monday,20th March 2023, the Sierra Leonean delegation held discussions geared towards strengthening bilateral cooperation on Maritime safety and regulation.
The visit was part of efforts that were been made to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to improve the capability and transformation of the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration into a Blue Economy.
Welcoming the delegation, the Chairman, Rear Admiral Hussein Moustafa el Geziry gave an overview of the successes of the Egyptian Authority for Maritime Safety (EAMS) and declared that they were fully prepared to move the partnership proposal to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and the formation of technical committees.
He opened the floor for Sierra Leone to state clearly the pathway the partnership should go. His statement was backed with a comprehensive video presentation on the successes, challenges, future targets, collaborations, and areas of cooperation.
On his part, the Deputy Minister of Transport and Aviation, Rex Bhonapha, expressed thanks and appreciation to the Government of Egypt through the Authority for the vision and expressed optimism for a successful take home. He presented the technical lead of the delegation to speak on their relevant needs.
In his presentation, the Executive Director of the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration, Paul Sobba Massaquoi gave a comprehensive narrative of SLMA and justified why the delegation was in Alexandria, Egypt which is directly linked to an invitation from the Egyptian Maritime Authority to SLMA through the Sierra Leone Embassy in Cairo, Egypt.
He declared that the purpose of the visit to Alexandria was to undertake a 5-day working visit to Egypt underscoring that key amongst the places to visit was the Egyptian Maritime Authority disclosing how the aim is to establish an administrative and technical collaboration between the two Maritime Institutions in order to improve Sierra Leone’s Blue Economy.
The Executive Director remarked in his preamble that the Maritime Administration of Sierra Leone was established by an Act of Parliament as an autonomous body in 2000 adding that the institution is a partner to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the Regional Maritime University(RMU) and are fully prepared to establish bilateral and technical cooperation with strong Maritime Agencies beginning with the Egyptian Maritime Authority in order to improve the technical competence of its staff.
He added that the motive of choosing Egypt is to strengthen the long-standing relationship between the two countries that will lead to some sort of agreements in the field of maritime administration in order to clear the path for key solutions and help in lifting restrictions on international maritime transport that will promote quality shipping values prevalent globally.
The Executive Director said such moves will help to enhance collaboration between the two maritime agencies for the mutual benefit and strengthen the technical capacity of staff of both institutions through exchange of programs and trainings, improve the technical capacity of staff by enrolment in maritime courses in Egyptian Maritime Institutions and finally, getting Sierra Leonean seafarers to be accepted on board Egypt flagged vessels conversely. He assured that Sierra Leone is on the verge of becoming an IMO Standard of Training Certificate and Watchkeeping (STCW) White Listed Flag.
He highlighted special areas of cooperation needed between the two sides vis-a-vis technical capacity building for the Shipping and Marine Environment Protection.
He stated that, the Department of Shipping and Marine Environment Protection is responsible amongst others for undertaking inspection on operating vessels, to frequently update and test the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan and the National Oil Spill Emergency Plan, to liaise with the Safety Department for the issuance of registration certificates and licenses to vessels operating within Sierra Leone’s coastal and inland waterways as well as to monitor and assess cargoes being discharged and loaded in ports in Sierra Leone.
The Executive Director suggested amongst others courses like Marine Pollution Inspection and Surveys Training, Oil Spill Surveillance and Tracking Training, Practical Training on Oil Spill Preparedness and Response, Cargo Tracking and Surveillance Training, Verified Gross Mass of Cargo Training, Cargo Survey Training and STCW Mandatory Courses.
He reiterated the Government’s reliability on the Local Content Policy for the benefit of Sierra Leoneans and was frank to mention that over 480 ships are currently flying the Sierra Leonean flag with no Sierra Leonean Seafarers onboard those vessels.
Sierra Leone’s High Commissioner to Cairo, H. E. Sadiq Silla, thanked the two sides for the sincere efforts they are putting into the discussions and promised to facilitate the process to its logical conclusion.
The Deputy Minister was accompanied by other senior members of SLMA and the Sierra Leone Embassy in Cairo.