Cargo being transported to the North (Buipe) via the Volta Lake

A former Managing Director of the Volta Lake Transport Company Limited, Martin Hiles says for the company to be economically viable, government may have to de-couple the North-South profit making cargo transportation service from the cross-lake ferry social service.

According to Mr. Hiles, the concept of marrying both services under one company is wrong, making it difficult for management to market the company to potential investors and clients.

“Basically the cross-lake ferry services lose money and the north-bound cargo services make money when they are running regularly. When you merge two companies and one is losing money while one is making a bit of money, the end result is disaster,” the former MD asserted at the ‘Eye on Port’ program recently.

He lamented that a 5-million-dollar government subsidy to be allotted to VLTC yearly for the management of the cross-lake ferry service during the President Atta-Mills era, never saw the light of day.

“I became MD in the first month of 2011. I rattled the cages of various bodies but the money has not come to this day – that money would have made a dramatic difference. It will not allow the cross lake ferry services drain the North-South cargo service,” he added.

Martin Hiles also said someone in government needs to be put in charge of promoting the use of the “marvelous asset” called the Volta Lake.

He said currently the Volta Lake and its operators come under the Ministry of Energy, whilst issues of transport should come under the Ministry of Transport.

According to him, “the two sides do not talk to each other and it needs someone more senior to pull the strings together.”

He revealed that as far as he knows, on 5 different occasions foreign investors have tried to recapitalise the company but they are all interested in the same thing, for the separation of the cross-lake ferry services from north-south cargo services.

In addition to that, 13 different studies have been conducted on how to use the Volta Lake, all pointing to enormous social and transportation benefits.

The Former Boss of VLTC said the cross-lake ferry services should remain a social service due to its relevance to the inhabitants of the area, but government should subsidise it.

He empathised with the current management of the company, who according to him have come to inherit many years of a lack of vision from governments.

Martin Hiles explained that the vision for the Volta Lake to serve as a vibrant transport corridor has not been achieved despite having “its moments”.

He argued that the Lake’s use for transportation could be as important as its use for electricity and should be treated as such, because over the years the cost of transportation has been the major factor for the rising cost of food in the south. He insinuated that with the help of transportation, via the Lake, food from the north would not cost as much in the south.

Meanwhile, the Volta Lake Transport Company Limited (VLTC) has called on businesses in Ghana to take advantage and cart bulk quantities of their cargoes across the Volta Lake because it is safer and cost-efficient to do so, compared to road transport.

Speaking on the same programme on maximising the benefits of Inland Water Transport, the Managing Director of VLTC, Rose Appiah Okyere, said the company has the full complement of equipment and human resource to support the logistics needs of companies who want to convey goods between the Southern and Northern parts of Ghana.

The company has at its disposal 3 barges of 2,250 ton-capacity dedicated to shipping of solid bulk cargo and 6 barges with a total capacity of 4,676 tons.

Mrs. Okyere said “we have the capacity. We have two tug boats which ply the North-South commercial route and one tug boat per voyage could pull 9 barges at a go which is equivalent to 100 Bulk Road Vehicles (BRVs) of about 54,000 litres of liquid cargo capacity and 48 trucks of 1000 bags of cement capacity.

“It is 40% cheaper than by road. Per one voyage about 140 trucks will be moved from the road, meaning in a year over 2000 trucks will be moved off our roads and that will free our roads and help us conserve them and reduce the amounts of money we use to rehabilitate these roads, as a nation,” she continued.

She also urged government to look into the possibility of influencing cargo volumes through the lake.

“I believe there is a policy to direct some 30-40% of cargo earmarked for the north should be channeled through the lake.”

The VLTC Boss said the company’s North Bound Commercial Line from Akosombo to Buipe is capable of recording 150,000 to 160,000 tons per year, yet they are turning around only 26% of the total annual capacity.

As a result, the VLTC Boss disclosed that the company seeks to embark on a vigorous marketing strategy to increase awareness and patronage of the once-vibrant company.

She said the company, established in 1970 by the state, following the construction of the Hydroelectric Dam in Akosombo, has been experiencing diminishing levels of cargo volumes, attributing this to the seeming preference of local companies to transport by road.

Mrs. Okyere disclosed that in its solid bulk category of goods, VTLC only operates shipping for GHACEM currently and in its liquid bulk category transports for the Bulk Storage and Transportation Company (BOST).

Hence, she called on Ghanaians to tap into the advantages of inland water transport present.

She explained that by its commercial line significantly boosted by increased patronage, the company will be able to recapitalize, as well as find enough funds to subsidise its ferry operations.

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