EDITORIAL3 days ago Decongest Lagos Ports, Make Eastern Ports Work

| July 13, 2019 | 0 Comments

Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the immediate removal of all trucks from the roads and bridges within Apapa, Lagos. This was to clear the gridlock in the area and restore sanity in the transportation system that has become hellish.

We recall that in 2018, a similar directive was issued by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo with little or no positive effect.

The problems persist because of the contrived over concentration of port activities in Lagos and the deliberate underutilization of other ports in Nigeria, especially the Eastern Ports.

Nigeria and Benin Republic are competitors in the maritime business. The two West African countries are competing to be the Load Centre, otherwise known as trans-shipment base in West Africa.

Curiously, Contonou has remained the haven for Nigerian importers even as about 60 per cent of all the imports to West Africa are destined for Nigeria. What gets to Nigerian seaports is just about 10 per cent. The greater amount of cargoes are offloaded in neighbouring ports in Cotonou and other West African states and then trans-shipped or smuggled into Nigeria.

Many countries of the world do not have the luxury of multiple seaports. Some, actually, are landlocked. Here, Nigeria is blessed with many natural harbours and ports that, if well utilized, have the capacity to significantly increase the nation’s revenue and, indeed, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The plight of ports at Nigeria’s eastern and delta coastlines are largely technical such as shallow berths and draft deficiency of the channels. The ports currently have berth depth of between 6 – 11 meters compared to the Lagos port with berth depth ranging from 9 – 13.5 meters. Standard port berths in other West African countries like Accra, Ghana is 19 metres, Lome, Togo is 16 metres, Cameroon at 16 metres and Cotonou, Benin Republic at 15metres.

With this technical deficiency the ports at the eastern and delta coastlines are unable to take container-bearing vessels that normally call at standard ports, except for specialized vessels constructed as flat bottom which many international shipping firms do not use.

The other technical deficiency of the ports, is that the draught of the channels are below standard. For the channel leading to the ports, Lagos has a draught of 13.5 meters;  Port Harcourt is between 7.1 – 9.1 meters;  Warri stands at between 6.4 – 7.6 meters; Onne has between 8 – 11 meters and Calabar has 6.4 meters during high tide and 5.4 meters during low tide.

True as these technical deficiencies may seem, they beg the question as to why the nation should decide to abandon the facilities especially as they can be corrected through dredging. The real issue is a lack of political will on the part of the policymakers to take the necessary measures required to build the nation’s economy outside Lagos.

The Shippers Association of Cross Rivers State, recently said that the Calabar Port, as it is, has the capacity to receive ocean going vessels and ought to be explored by the federal government through provision of incentives to stakeholders. They said that what the port needs to receive bigger vessels is for the channel to be dredged. That, in our view, is obvious.

We consider it strange that export goods from Cross River, a state that has a seaport, have to be taken to Lagos before they are shipped out of the country. The dredging of the channel and giving concessions to shipping lines should be the long term sustainable measure.

It is in this light that we welcome the recent decision by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to slash harbour dues at the Eastern ports. The slashing of the harbour dues is meant to attract vessels to the Eastern ports and decongest the Lagos ports eventually.

NPA said that slashing of dues is part of efforts to increase patronage of the Eastern Ports. The   discount will only apply to harbour dues payable by the following types of vessels/cargoes: Container vessels with at least 250 TEUs; General cargo vessels with at least 16,000 MT; Combo Vessels with at least 16,000 MT and RORO Vessels with at least 250 units of vehicles.

While we commend the NPA for slashing the tariff for Eastern Ports, it is important to stress that a lasting solution lies in dredging them to accommodate big vessels so that importers in the region and beyond can utilize them. This will bring the much desired permanent solution to the present crisis at the Lagos ports.

Culled from :Here

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