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Port Reforms Labour Deregulation Private Investment and Financial Autonomy

Ports, being public sector units in most of the nations, are a target for institutional reforms. The similar port activities, when compared in terms of performance, differ between ports and even within the same region. For e.g. in 1991, Western European ports handled containers ranging from 14 to 30 moves per hour per crane. An Asian port handles 458 containers in three and a half hour while another port in the same region took 2-3 days for the same amount of work. Labor productivity also differs between ports. In 1993, a port in the Far East employed 7200 workers to handle 200 million tons of cargo while another port in the same region needed 52000 strong labor force to handle 150 million tons of cargo. It is evident nations realized that poor productivity and high costs are proving a deterrent to the development of trade and the national economy (UNCTAD, 1995). Sommer (1999) also noticed that unprecedented increase in world trade led captive port users (having cargo vertically integrated into production) to put political pressures on authorities to improve handling facilities and reduce the cost of port services. Sommer also points out another important reason for reforms that developing superstructures with modern strategic location and improved efficiency was beyond the funding capacity of public port authorities. Particularly the developing countries are not getting advantages of low cost of production in their land due to the high costs of port services. As an example, loading of a cargo of soybean on board of a ship cost $65 in South American ports compared to only $20 per ton at North American ports (UNCTAD, 1995). Sometimes the port infrastructure does not have major defects yet the cost of port services is too high. In the UNCTAD survey on the ports of C te d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Senegal, the port facilities were reasonably good but the boundary between port and government was rather too heavy. As a result, managers were restricted in utilizing ports commercially.