Prospects of revival of the country’s eastern seaports heightened last Thursday at the occasion of the inauguration of the new Board of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
Describing them as underutilised, the Chairman of the new Board, Akin Ricketts, lamented over their state, while noting that such a situation had far-reaching impact on the country’s economy, as it was responsible for the congestion which has crippled business at the western ports of Apapa and Tin Can Island; all in Lagos.
Ricketts then pledged that his new board would strive to resolve the situation by improving the conditions of the eastern ports. The eastern ports comprise Port Harcourt and Onne (Rivers State), Delta in Warri (Delta State) and Calabar (Cross River State). As envisaged, the eastern ports are to service the eastern part of the country comprising states located east of the River Niger.
For several years, the western ports have been under a state of strangulating congestion, with roads leading to them routinely clogged by unclaimed imported vehicles and assorted cargo, which in turn delay and deny onward passage of cleared cargo to their destinations for as much as six months in some cases.
This is because of the critical importance of the seaports to a Nigerian economy with preponderant dependence on imports of consumer goods, as well as industrial raw materials and equipment.
Incidentally, the problematic state of the country’s ports is not new, while the causative factors are also not far-fetched. For instance, one of the reported age-long problems of the eastern ports is that of narrow and shallow channels connecting them to the ocean, with associated high cost of dredging, as well as clearing such waterways.
Other issues that have made them less attractive to port users include the differential in freight charges when compared to western ports, and the deplorable state of infrastructure in them. Yet another is the challenge of security for maritime operations in the eastern zone.
Presently, many ship owners and operators in the eastern zone rent private vessels which are manned by armed naval personnel to escort their vessels of interest into and out of Nigerian waters. And this is usually at significant cost to the vehicle operators. Little wonder that over 60 per cent of cargo coming to Nigeria end up in the western ports, even when the importers may not be from that zone.
Meanwhile, it would be recalled that as apparent responses to the challenges of these eastern ports, the NPA in 2018 announced that it planned to invest N1bn to tackle the problem of reviving the eastern ports. Also, in 2019, the NPA announced a reduction of 10 per cent in port operational charges for use of the eastern ports by categories of ships, namely those with 250 of 20-foot equivalent containers, general cargo of 16,000 metric tonnes, combo vessels of 16,000 metric tonnes, as well as roll-on roll-off vessels with 250 units of vehicles.
It would seem that such measures are yet to sway the port users to step up significantly their use of these eastern ports as the affected ports still lack the operational ambience and infrastructure for trouble-free patronage by port users.
Many observers attribute the current problems of the country’s port system to the 2006 measures by the Federal Government to concession the ports and the attendant withdrawal of 30 per cennt incentive granted to vehicle owners who use the eastern ports under their control by government.
However, while the concession was to attract better business for the ports (including the eastern ports), the reverse was the case.
Hence while the concern of the chairman of the new NPA board remains valid, the onus still lies on the management of the agency to bring the eastern ports into full operational status.
Source: Daily Trust
NIMASA tasked on discrimination against Nigerian seafarers’ certificate
A Marine Engineer, Daniel Ikueyemi, on Saturday urged the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to address the issue of discrimination against the Nigerian Seafarers’ Certificate of Competence (COC).
He made the appeal on an Instagram live programme organised by Mrs Ezinne Azunnah of the MaritimeTvNews, entitled, ”Seafarers’ Certificate of Competence: Quality and Opportunities”.
The Certificate of Competency (COC) is a form of licence every mariner is granted to work on ships.
The certificate ensures that the concerned person has the sufficient knowledge and skills to sail on ocean-going vessels.
According to him, our COC is not strong enough and the issue of discrimination of the COC is a common thing for us.
He added that to ensure that the discrimination stopped, there was the need for NIMASA as the regulator to strengthen the security of the COC to standardise it and prevent it from being forged.
“Other ways to tackle the issue is to have a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with some African countries to ensure seafarers utilise their COC.
“There is a notion that 60 per cent of what is taught does not correlate.
“There is need to check this notion and also look into the curriculum that are being used in the country’s maritime academies,’’ he said.
Ikueyemi also pointed out that the feedback mechanism that existed did not capture seafarers’ experience at sea.
He urged NIMASA to have a plan from point of training to point at which seafarers were employed so that their trade would be harnessed.
Also Capt. Ola Alufa, a Marine Captain and Consultant said that the restriction of the country’s COC had not given seafarers the opportunity to be utilised globally.
According to him, Nigerian seafarers are faced with limitations as regards categorisation and that should be expunged.
Alufa suggested that Nigerian seafarers should be well-employed everywhere and be able to work in vessels.
“The limitation is the categorisation. We do not have trading vessels and we need them now.
“NIMASA has tried as regards the curriculum, experience and examination which is very tough. It is of international standard, we need to encourage our own certificate,” he said
He recommended that the Ministry of Transportation must work hand in hand with NIMASA to write to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to expunge the clause affecting seafarers.
“A lot of seafarers have not yet gone on board a ship before. They just got the certificate from schools but there is no opportunity and this still bounces back to government on the need for training vessels.
“The vessels will give seafarers the experience and certificate to be recognised worldwide,” he said. (NAN)
Gov Emmanuel Commends Buhari On Ibom Deep Seaport Project
Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, has applauded President Mohammad Buhari determination to fast track the actualisation of Ibom Deep Seaport, IDSP.
The governor also thanked the Federal Ministry of Transportation and all relevant federal regulatory agencies including the NPA, ICRC and others for working tirelessly with Akwa Ibom state government to actualise a vision that will transform the economic fortunes of the entire country.
He poured encomiums on the Technical Committee on Realisation of Ibom Deep Seaport for its dedication and high sense of patriotism displayed in pursuing the project.
These commendations came on the heels of an announcement that the Federal Government is set to move to the next level of the procurement process of the Ibom Deep Port project.
Emmanuel, who speake through the state’s Commissioner for Economic Development and Ibom Deep Seaport, Akan Okon said, “The government and people of Akwa Ibom State are very happy with this development and we must appreciate President Mohammad Bihari for his visionary leadership and thank the Honourable Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi and all relevant regulatory agencies who diligently and tiredlessly with our state government and contributed to the success so far recorded.”
“This certification is a clear evidence that Federal Government appreciates the extensive benefits Ibom Deep Seaport will attract to the country in terms of expansive business and employment opportunities.”
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