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  April 18th, 2018 | Written by

Ports Across Ireland’s Brexit Divide Reaffirm Unity on UN Project12 April 2018

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  • New agreement reaffirms commitment to help African and Asian ports.
  • The ports of Cork, Dublin, and Belfast are longstanding partners of UNCTAD TrainForTrade program.
  • More than 80 percent of global trade travels by water.

Ports sitting on opposite sides of a future Brexit border have signed a new agreement with UNCTAD, reaffirming their commitment to work together to help counterparts in Africa and Asia boost productivity.

A four-year memorandum of understanding with the UN trade body was signed between the ports of Cork and Dublin, both located in the Republic of Ireland, and the port of Belfast in Northern Ireland. All three are longstanding partners of UNCTAD’s TrainForTrade Port Management Program.

Since more than 80 percent of global trade travels by water, a country’s ability to do business with the world depends on the efficiency of its ports. And long delays in ports in many developing countries make the goods their companies export less competitive and the products they import more expensive.

In Africa, containers wait in terminals for an average of three weeks before being shipped to their final destination – three times longer than in other emerging markets. Such delays add up to 10 percent to the price of imports, and even more to exports, according to some estimates.

“What you see in front of you is an all-Ireland approach to these really important issues,” the Republic of Ireland’s top representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Ambassador Michael Gaffey, told port managers from around the globe gathered in Geneva for a meeting on measuring port performance.

“This is an important program for Ireland and it’s an important program for Irish Aid.

“We’ve been supporting the English-speaking network of the port management program since its launch in 2007,” he added. “And we continued to support it even when our aid program was under enormous pressure and threat during the financial crisis.”

“Ports, and indeed airports, are gateways to our particular countries,” said Paul O’Regan, Port of Cork’s harbor master and operations manager. “They have to be open. They have to be effective. They have to be efficient. And they have to be part of a much wider network.”

The TrainForTrade Port Management Program consists of three networks – Spanish, English and French – based on the primary languages of those involved. Started in 1996 in ports in the French-speaking African nations of Benin, Gabon, and Senegal, the program has since expanded to more than 200 ports in 34 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Cork, Dublin and Belfast signed up to support the English-speaking members, which are currently Ghana and Nigeria in Africa, and Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines in Asia.

“For over 10 years now, our port partners from Ireland and Northern Ireland have played a central role in fostering the activities of the English-speaking network of the port management program,” said UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General Isabelle Durant. “Their support has produced impressive outputs” which include the training of more than 850 senior and mid-level managers.

But the impact goes beyond numbers, and the training course has become a “major change-maker” in the career of graduates, Ms. Durant said, citing the example of Ghana, where the ports and harbors authority has made the course mandatory for promotion and increased responsibilities for middle managers.

Under the agreement, the ports of Belfast, Cork, and Dublin commit to help update the course material, host training of trainers workshops for instructors in Africa and Asia, organize coordination meetings, send senior managers to lead training modules in ports in Africa and Asia, and support the development of a digital platform for the program.

For the representatives of the three ports, it’s as much about learning as it is about teaching. “We get as much from this program as we give,” said O’Regan.