Cameroon Gets Interest-Free Loan to Improve Maritime Security

The Belgian government has granted Cameroon a 30-year, interest-free loan of EUR 4.8m (US$5.8m) to improve maritime security. The loan is to be used by the port of Douala to buy equipment to improve maritime surveillance along Cameroon's 400-km coastline and enable the long-range identification of ships. The port of Douala handles 95% of the goods entering the country and is also the main entry point for Cameroon's landlocked neighbours, the Central African Republic and Chad.

Under World Bank-supported reforms, the government has taken steps to reduce transaction costs and clearance time at the port. All commercial and industrial activity at the port, including the management of the container terminal, is now handled by private operators. The new investment is one of a number of measures to improve Cameroon's compliance with the maritime security requirements of the International Maritime Organisation. The entire Central African region is deficient in the area of maritime security. For example, there are acute shortcomings in pollution management, the regulation of fishing, and search and rescue systems. There are also almost no coastal patrols to deter acts of terrorism or piracy. Therefore, as the strategic importance of the region grows because of its oil activities, countries are being pressed to improve their ability to deal with terrorist and trade-related risks. Cameroon is working together with other countries in the Gulf of Guinea to develop a framework for co-operation to improve maritime security.

(c)2005 Economist Intelligence Unit