IN a bid to increase effective utilisation and patronage of the Eastern port, the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, has canvassed downward review of government agencies charges by 30 percent to improve traffic to the eastern ports.
This plea was made by the managing director of the authority, Hadiza Bala-Usman at a one-day strategy group meeting organised by Nigerian Chamber of Shipping (NCS) on how to increase patronage to the Eastern ports tagged, “The Economies of the Eastern Ports”, held in Lagos yesterday.
Usman who was represented by the General Manager, Security, Capt. Iheanacho Ebubeogu said every agency of government must reduce their tariff across board to attract cargoes from importers to the eastern ports.
According to him, if the cost differentials between the Lagos port and the Eastern port are down by 30percent, importers will be attracted to use the port.
“We must look at our tariff across board. We have reviewed our tariff earlier and only NPA did it and when I mean review of tariff across board, NPA tariff has to come down, NIMASA should review their cabotage tariff, Customs tariff should come down so that if the differential between ports in Lagos and eastern port is 30 percent, people can be motivated given that security had been addressed.
“I don’t want us to think if we have addressed security, everything has been achieved, but other cost components must also come down.”
Usman, however, called on the improved synergy between NPA and security agencies to ensure comfort to shipping and prevent host communities from interfering in shipping.
“The first thing to improve our port is a synergy between NPA and security agencies to ensure comfort to shipping. Comfort to shipping is security and also to dissuade the host communities from interfering in government right of way.”
The NPA boss who also identified the need for the development of deep seaports for bigger vessels to call at Nigerian ports said Nigeria current depth cannot handle modern vessels
“Because our channels are long it is good for Nigeria port authority to carry out dredging optimisation study which we have started and that will show us how nature is fighting us.
“Also, the only thing for us to do is for us to have deep seaport where this bigger ships will come in because we have responded to economies of scales where these other ports will become transshipment port with the inland container depot to get all goods to geographical coverage area.
“If we don’t do that, we will see ships going to Abidjan, Senegal because they have a deeper draft and they lighten the cargo before they come to our port despite the fact that some of these cargoes are meant for Nigeria.”
She also acknowledged that promoters of new seaports in Nigeria should make plans for port master plans instead of planning for the port alone to forestall the Apapa mistake.
“As we are building a port, let’s embark on the port master plan and not port planning. Port planning is what we do to cover jurisdiction of the port but the port master plan is done to entail the port and its maritime environment.
“All ports this day embarked on the port master plan and if NPA has had the vision of embarking on the port master plan, the whole of Creek road would have been owned by the authority.
“Owning the creek road will be done to regulate the tenancy and if we have creek road, NPA would not have allowed two tank farms to be there and, the traffic flow from port city development will not be too much in conflict with the port,” she said.
Speaking earlier, the President of the Nigeria Chamber of Shipping, Andy Isichie said the underutilization of the Eastern ports has taken a toll on the nation’s economy.
Isichie in his remark said the underutilization of the Eastern ports contributed to the gridlocks experienced daily on the road leading to Apapa and Tin-Can Island Port.
According to him, shallow draft, insecurity and port cost have been attributed to the factors responsible for the underutilization of the eastern ports.
He said, “70 to 80 percent of the cargoes coming to Nigeria come in through Lagos ports and we want to know why.”
He stated further, “Also, shallow draft, insecurity have been identified to the underutilisation. In fact, some are saying low freight, expensive port but another believed larger volumes will drive down cost.”
He, however, concluded that effective utilisation of the eastern ports would solve the danger Apapa traffic is having on public infrastructure and human lives.