He stated that the Maritime sector is responsible for maritime activities in the country; looking after the seas, the ships, rivers, everything that has to do with water. He adds that “we are strategically located in West Africa and because of that, we are trying to make Sierra Leone a hub for trans-shipment us having the third biggest natural harbor in the world.” He adds: “Comparatively, we are doing better off compared to other countries because of our location and the cost for doing business in our country is quite cheap. We see the Maritime Office which was established in 2000 to deal with these kinds of issues because from forecasting and projections, we saw that with time there will be increase in traffic relating to the sea.”
He explained that there are five (5) river lines in the districts and in each of these districts the SLMA has offices and has close to 200 field staffs just to make sure that the SLMA is able to keep up with the regulations they have with sea vessels.
He further explained that before now there used to be lots of accidents involving sea vessels that made an impact on our economy so much but with the kind of control measures put in place, he believes that lots of people are now showing interest in the sea travel and transportation business because it is safer now. He added: “We have lots of regulations and we are putting measures to facilitate their business. Now we do not hear a lot of unlawful acts like before when people used to go out and attack foreign vessels coming but we do not hear such complains anymore, it is a thing of the past.”
“Also, we as Maritime Administration we are always trying to provide the enabling environment for people to come. Like recently, I was out of the country trying to mobilize private sector operators to bring in ferries to run in the country. It is not just about providing buses for people on the road but we also have to get ferries because we have lots of people travelling from Freetown to Lungi on daily basis. You can see from the sea coach, the sea birds, these small ferries and we have these big ferries carrying passengers as well as vehicles. So we are making sure that we do not have red tapes for people coming to operate here. We have got a lot of proposals. Quite recently we had to ground most of the ferries because of their conditions but we have got them running again, and other people will also bring in new ferries as well. Once that is done, the transport system at sea will be fine and people will be able to move freely because transportation is very important. If you have your wares and not able to move them, it will become a very serious problem, that is why we are pressing on the government to actually pay attention to these ferries. But one thing we have made clear is that we want to leave these ferries in the hands of private people and we will provide the enabling environment for them. Some people will say why The Maritime cannot buy ferries? We cannot be the player and the referee at the same time. If we buy ferries, we will pull so many people out of the business,” he stated.
Expanding further Dr. Jalloh said: “We do not run these ferries; we are a regulator just like NATCOM. First, the mandate on which we were established was to develop and improve the shipping industry in Sierra Leone. Basically, regulating the inland water transport in the country and also for the registration of ships as well, and any other related agencies. We regulate the ports, shipping agencies and everything that has to do with shipping we regulate. We are also the vocal point for the International Maritime Organization in London. We are the ones making sure that all conventions that are adopted and ratified we bring them to Sierra Leone, domesticate them and make the necessary regulations and do the implementation as well. Again, we generate revenue as well. In our Act, we have what we call fate levy. Like for every cargo that comes into the country you pay an amount of levy and that levy comes to the administration which eventually is paid to the government of Sierra Leone. We are the ones collecting those funds. In addition to our national duties we have an office in Cyprus which registers international. We used to have one in Singapore but we closed that because of many problems. We also have an office in Dubai but Cyprus is the main office, so we are trying because we started all this in the last two years.”
He recalls that in fact one of his biggest challenges when he took over was in the area of training and updating people. He said: “It is difficult to get Maritime professionals in Sierra Leone. We are not training maritime professionals; it is just mechanical engineers, etc. I was a mechanical engineer and later I went to Ghana and did marine engineering as well. We started this office during that time. We were in the small building you see on the right hand side coming down Government Wharf. We were there until we finished building the bigger building we3 now occupy. The problem was when we moved, we needed to have good staffs and so we did a lot of training. Now we have so many people with the right capacity to do almost everything for which our Act establishes us.”
He went further to state that Maritime issues are not static, “you must be dynamic and innovative otherwise you will not cope with the times. Every time we revise our conventions and things we discussed, because things change; climate change comes in, a lot of activities with the ships like ship designs, so on and so forth also need to be addressed and so like for every time we have to be on top of everything. Because if things change and you go on board the ship, you have to see exactly what is supposed to be on board. You have to know that from this time to this time this should not be on board it has to be A, B and C, so if you go without the right knowledge then the masters will just be making a fool out of you.”
We are always striving to be the best in the region and not just the region because we are expanding to East Africa (Kenya), Maritime Authority, and exchange ideas. Recently, we were in Mombasa to exchange ideas, to see what they have and they also copy from us. For instance, in the area of ship registering programmes, the tertiary office that we have; they asked us couple of questions because it involves a lot of activities. Basically, in the next five (5) to ten (10) years I think the SLMA will have grown more than what we are now because we want to actually take charge of the region, to increase our capacity and to make sure we are able to handle all issues relating to maritime. We are also gearing ourselves for this petroleum thing; we went to Nigeria because they have the experience in dealing with oil. The government always asked about issues concerning the maritime and we give them the necessary advice.
“One thing I am very proud of is being in this position. Like I said earlier, I entered the Maritime Administration in a lesser capacity but over the years (15 years), it was difficult to get maritime professionals. Even if you come down with a Mechanical Engineering or whatever, you need to change to Marine Engineering before you can fit into the system. Like most of the guys now that I have that are boasting of big positions are Civil Engineers because we do not have Maritime Colleges, I had to change their mind set. They were just cueing from me because I also changed from Mechanical Engineer to Marine Engineer. I am very proud of myself for achieving all of these over the years. I remember when I went to parliament for my confirmation and parliament said that if president Koroma had appointed another person they would have rejected him because they know for sure that in Sierra Leone at that time, Jalloh (myself) is the rightfully person to handle that office. Everybody consults me and for the president, once I speak it is final. So I am happy about that and even if I leave now at least I will be proud because I started from nowhere to the top on merit.”