Government tackles challenges militating against utilisation of Eastern ports
The Federal Government has expressed commitment to guarantee optimal utilisation of the Eastern ports.The Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, who made this known during the oversight function of members of the House of Representatives Ad-hoc committee on Ports and Habours in Lagos, said that the authority was working with all relevant stakeholders towards tackling the challenges that hamper patronage of the seaports.
There have been concerns over the poor patronage of the Eastern ports comprising Warri, Calabar, and Port Harcourt Ports due to some prevailing challenges.Bala Usman identified the challenges to include: insecurity on the waterways, shallow depths which hinders the movement of big vessels, as well as the problems of poor access roads and rail linkages to ports in these areas.
On the issues of draught limitations, she explained that, following the approval of the contract by the Federal Executive Council last year, dredging works have been completed to increase the Warri channel draft to 7.5 meters.She also noted that consultants have been engaged to advise government on the level of investments needed to improve the infrastructural capacity of the port in Port Harcourt.She added that the Onne Ports currently function at full capacity.
In Warri Port, no fewer than 13 ships laden with over 100,000 metric tons of various cargoes, including fuel, fish and glass are expected to berth at the port this month.Data obtained by The Guardian showed that eight vessels carrying various goods are expected to hit the Warri port before the end of September, while five others are either awaiting berth at anchorage or Fairway Buoy.
Highlighting the importance of deep seaport to Nigeria’s seaborne trade, Bala Usman informed that NPA has granted all requisite approvals for the construction of the Lekki Deep Sea Port for which development has started. She however noted that the Authority was awaiting response from the promoters of the Badagry Deep Sea Port to enable conclusion on the final outline business case for the project.
The NPA boss pointed out that the maritime industry is becoming more increasingly disposed to patronising deep seaports which allows for big vessels and aid economies of scales. She noted that Nigeria would only assure its future market share in the industry with the development of deep seaports.
On security, the managing director explained that the NPA is purchasing patrol boats and working with the Nigerian Navy, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), and the Port Police Command to combat crimes on the nations waterways and assured that progress is being made on this front.
Concerning Port access roads nationwide, Bala Usman explained that the NPA has drawn a chart of such roads across the country and written to the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing about the need to prioritise the rehabilitation of the roads.
She noted that the ministry has commenced the implementation process with the recent award of the construction of Ikom Bridge, which is a key road connecting Cross River State to the North Eastern part of the country.She expressed optimism that these steps would provide better linkages to the hinterland and attract more business to the Eastern Ports.
Chairman of the Ad-hoc Committee, Buba Yakub said that the committee was on a fact finding mission on reasons why the Eastern Ports are not working as optimally as the Western Ports and how much that affects national development.
Yakub noted that the committee would go round all the ports and generate a blue print that would improve patronage at the Eastern Ports and prevent agitations from host communities.