Fact or Fiction: Murmurs of ISPS Code Fail, Scarcity of Ships at Liberia’s Gateway


Monrovia – The National Port Authority, regarded as the gateway to Liberia has been shrouded in speculations of late amid reports the number of ships docking at the Freeport has taken a dip in recent months.

Highly placed sources confirmed to FrontPageAfrica Monday that the NPA facility in Monrovia, has for the past few months been receiving one vessel once every three months or so while the commercial pier in Buchanan “literally has no traffic”.

Reports of scarcity of ships at the port began surfacing Tuesday that Liberia had failed the International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) inspection conducted by the US Coast Guard. The ISPS inspection is conducted annually, sometimes twice. 

Some reports have it that Liberia has not failed since 2010 amid implications that vessels will require higher level of insurance in order to call at our ports because they are deemed INSECURE or put bluntly, UNSAFE to do business.

This has led many to speculate that this could be the reason why very few ships are docking at the Freeport.

Mr. James Kollie, head of the Liberia Maritime Authority told FrontPageAfrica Tuesday that the report is false. “It is totally false,” said the LMA head.

According to Mr. Kollie, The recent (October 2019) ISPS inspection by the US Coast Guard will recommend that Liberia be moved to a white list. However, smaller facilities like Buchanan and NPA’s own facility (not the major APMT facility) will need to take additional actions but by and large, Liberia will move to a white list, the list they refer to for meeting all the standards

A country is considered ‘whitelisted’ when it is removes from the US Coast Guard Port State Advisory list which means that it has done enough to put an effective anti-terrorism measures in place.

Kollie says the October audit, which was done a year ahead of schedule is going to recommend that Liberia be removed from the list. “These audits are done once every two years and so it was due in 2020 with the last one done in August 2018.

Kollie said it was agreed that the auditors come in this year since recent progress would make it possible to be removed from the list. “So, the US Coast Guard has actually been in the country two times this year. The actual audit is every two years but in the off year like this, they do just an inspection and not a full audit. However, in this case, they decided to do both this year and will be recommending us for removal from the advisory list.”

The audit, according to Mr. Kollie was just done in the middle of October. “It takes about six months for the reports to finalize but they do brief before leaving.”

Another official, privy to the audit discussions told FPA late Tuesday that while the audit looks good, some individual facilities passed conditionally.” 

The official explained that it appears the NPA facilities failed but APM terminal passed. “Because APM covers 95% of port activity and 97% of transactions the report will “white list” Liberia as a whole  but may make a note of the NPA failure.”

The second official confirmed also that Liberia is being removed from the advisory list to the white list”. Advisory lists or gray list refers to deficiency.

Outside the official report, the source says, much of what is out there now is mere speculations.

What remains murky, is why are authorities at the port tightlipped over the reduction in ships docking at the port. Until recently, Malcolm Scott, head of Public Relations told FrontPageAfrica: “The hard truth is, vessels are calling, berthing and sailing our ports.”

Mr. Scott described the reports as a concocted myth about Liberia’s Flagship port(Freeport) mired in “fakery”.

Mr. Scott also dismissed an image of what appears to be an abandoned port as an old image. “Contrary to what is being perceived however, MV panther, a Maersk line vessel berthed at the Freeport on 10/29/2019 after a several other also navigated – sailed the port’s harbor. In ABC journalism, photographs of a happening not old images, make the readers to see the setting in which the event happens. So, the judgment is yours to take a good look the very old picture seen below and compare same with the current one above.”