We are happy to learn that efforts being made by the Buhari-led APC government and a section of the maritime business community to re-jig some of Eastern Nigerian ports have now received significant boost.
Major international shipping companies like Hull Blythe Nigeria Ltd and Maerskline have now decided to return to the Calabar port in Cross River State and the Onne port in Rivers State.
The House of Representatives Ad-hoc committee was investigating why Warri, Port Harcourt, Calabar and Onne Ports were not enjoying capacity utilization. And when the
Managing Director of Hull Blyth Nigeria Limited, Mr. Christian Holm, visited the law makers, he assured them that his firm, together with some of their clients which included Marguisa Lines, owners of ‘MN Boreas’ was now committed to exploring ways to open up Calabar Port to shipping trade and more business opportunities.
He assured the law makers that now the port is connected with a global container-liner service, his company was excited about the willingness of Marguisa Lines to invest in the port, in new services and in all the opportunities that open up for trade and development in Calabar and beyond.
He identified undeveloped infrastructure, shallow water draft, poor road infrastructure and insecurity as factors hindering large vessels from calling on the ports outside Lagos, noting that port complexes outside Lagos had not been upgraded in accordance with modern seaborne trade. This relates especially to containerized trade, where the requirements for sizeable port container yards and related handling equipment have not yet been met.
The Hull Blyth boss also identified other operational possible drawbacks to include road infrastructure to connect the ports with the importers and exporters, which he says can negatively impact on the efficient delivery and distribution of shipping goods.
Marguisa Lines has its headquarters in Madrid, Spain, and since 1990, has specialized in liner transportation between the Mediterranean and West Africa. Its main service operates between the ports of Algeciras in Spain and Malabo in Equatorial Guinea, and connects a large network of global and regional ports. Holm noted that the port of Malabo will also serve as hub port for the feeder vessel calling at Calabar on regular basis.
It is also interesting that Maerskline has announced its decision to direct its vessels to Onne Port and to effectively discontinue ship calls to Lagos Ports. A statement by Maerskline said: “It is our pleasure to announce that our Far East (China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore) service will no longer be calling at Lagos Ports but will now come to Onne directly, giving customers a reduced transit time. This is effective this January 2020. Maersk encourages all her customers to take advantage of our ocean and inland products (Cargo Trucking, Warehousing, Customs House Brokerage, Value Protect, spot booking on export cargo etc) for a complete end -to-end service experience.”
The federal government through the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping (NCS), early last year, expressed strong desire to see ports in the eastern geopolitical zone reconnect with active shipping activities. The NPA was later to embark on a number of support initiatives to drive the process for the realignments of eastern system towards attracting the desired cargo shipping traffic. One of such initiatives was the proposed 30 per cent tariff reduction to stimulate stakeholders’ patronage – a decision that was made at a one-day strategy meeting/workshop organized by NCS, with the theme “Maximizing Economics of The Eastern Port.”
At the meeting, stakeholders and government officials also agreed on the need for the development of future ports based on strategic master plan and functional blueprint to accommodate changes and expansion.
Managing Director of NPA, Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman said during the meeting that her agency’s gesture will amount to very little unless other levy collecting agencies of government also offer reasonable tax cut which alone can attract the expected patronage and efficient utilization of the eastern ports. The NPA boss who was represented by the then General Manager, Security, Capt. Iheanacho Ebubeogu now retired, noted that only an affirmative and collective action plan can lead to the resuscitation of eastern ports. President of NCS, Mr. Andy Isichie, said the underutilization of eastern ports would continually take toll on the nation’s economy as a neglected asset with great potentials to expand the nation’s economic horizon.
Source: Vanguard Newspaper