The Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, has said that the key reasons why vessels avoid using ports at the Eastern flank of the nation’s seaports was due to the level of insecurity on the waterways, the shallow draft of the channels which hinders the movement of big vessels, as well as problems of poor access roads and rail linkages to the ports in these areas.
On the issues of draft limitations, the Managing Director, Ms Hadiza Bala Usman, who disclosed these, explained that following the approval of the contract by the Federal Executive Council last year, dredging works have been completed on deepening the Warri channel draught to 7.5 meters while consultants have been engaged to advise on level of investments needed to improve the infrastructure capacity of the Port Harcourt port.
Speaking at a meeting with members of the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Ports and Harbours, she noted that the Onne Ports currently function at full capacity just as she informed the legislators that the management of the NPA was working with all relevant stakeholders towards tackling the challenges that hamper patronage of the Eastern Ports.
Bala-Usman also disclosed that NPA has granted all requisite approvals for the construction of the Lekki Deep Sea Port for which development has started.
She said further that the Authority was awaiting a response from the promoters of the Badagry Deep Sea Port to enable conclusion on the final outline business case for the project.
Bala-Usman also pointed out that the maritime industry is becoming more increasingly disposed to patronising Deep Sea Ports which allows for big vessels and aid economies of scales. She clarified that Nigeria would only assure its future market share in the industry with the development of Deep Sea Ports.
On security, Bala-Usman 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 nation’s waterways and assured that progress is being made on this front.
On the issue of port access roads, she explained that the NPA has drawn a basket of such roads across the country and written to the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing about the need to prioritise the rehabilitation of these roads.
She noted that the ministry has commenced implementation of this 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 and expressed optimism that these steps will provide better linkages to the hinterland and attract more business to the Eastern Ports.
Earlier in his remarks, Chairman of the Ad-hoc Committee, Hon. Buba Yakub explained 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 this assignment will take his Committee round all the ports and at the end of the day, generate a blueprint that would improve patronage at the Eastern Ports and prevent agitations from host communities.