Ferry Operation Concession
Model: Management Contract
Pending the possible construction of the Banjul-Barra bridge, a concession of the ferry services can be implemented fairly quickly. In spite of the failure of an earlier attempt in 2011, the concession model has proven to be very successful elsewhere in the world. There is no reason why the model would not function in the Gambia, provided that the concession is properly structured and competitively tendered. There is, however, no concrete intention on the part of the government or the current state-owned operator (Gambia Ports Authority) to organize a concession of the ferry services. This is why the project as not yet having reached the inception stage. Consequently, the next step is to verify the willingness of the public sector (in particular GPA) to consider a PPP for the operation of the ferry services and, if the answer is affirmative, to formally notify the project as a PPP.
In 2014 the ferry services have shown an improvement of reliability. As a result the sense of urgency to reform the ferry services has lessened. Nevertheless, ferry transport is still very fragile. Currently, only one vessel is operating between Banjul and Barra. If this vessel falls out for repair or maintenance, the crisis situation experienced a few years ago will reappear. Ferry services are in principle very suitable to be outsourced under concession agreements. In many places of the world the concession model has proven to be very effective and efficient in this sector. There is no reason why the model would not function in the Gambia, provided that the concession is properly structured and competitively tendered. One point of attention is the interface between the ferry operations and the condition of the terminals and the navigation channel. Delays in the dredging of the access channels to the landing points and of the extension of the slip yards contributed to the failure of the PPP arrangement in 2011. A potential solution, to be investigated, is to include the maintenance of the access channels and the terminal infrastructure in the concession agreement, so that the private contractor can manage these aspects himself.
At the moment there is no concrete intention on the part of the government or the current state-owned operator (Gambia Ports Authority) to organize a concession of the ferry services.Nevertheless we recommend to reconsider PPP for the organization of the ferry services.Reliable ferry services are important to the economy and the inhabitants of The Gambia, and the concession model is very suitable for this sector and relatively easy to implement.
Before the tendering of a concession of the ferry services can be pursued further, the relevant policymakers and public stakeholders (in particular Gambia Ports Authority) must be willing to notify the project formally as a candidate PPP project. Once the decision to consider a concession contract for the ferry services a feasibility study must be carried out to define the heads of terms of the concession agreement (scope, service specifications, tariff structure,…) and to assess the commercial and financial viability of the concession.