A chartered ship on Thursday loaded 7,000 metric tons of cocoa from Calabar Port to the United States.
The shipping of the export produce was facilitated by the Nigeria Export-Import Bank (NEXIM).
Speaking at a ceremony to commemorate the event in Calabar, MEXIM Managing Director, Abba Bello, said Nigeria needs more functional ports to facilitate the export and import of goods, ease the gridlock in Apapa and also expand economic growth and development in other parts of the country.
He said, “Apapa nightmare is partly a reflection of the increase in the volume of business activities in the Apapa and Tin Can Ports and associated high volume of human and vehicular traffic without corresponding improvement in the road network and other port infrastructure.
“The attendant challenges have had serious implications for the business climate contrary to the objective of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that Nigeria ranks among the top one hundred countries of the world on ease of doing business by 2023.”
He emphasized that the economic consequences in the Apapa gridlock have been severe as exporters have continuously grieved over the long delays in cargo movement which have caused them to fail in keeping contract obligations in addition to increased borrowing costs and other administrative expenses while huge volumes of agricultural commodities rotted away in warehouses.
“This is even more so against the background of the expected increase in the volume of trade with the commencement of the Africa Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA) and the ongoing efforts of the Federal Government to increasingly diversify the economy and promote non-oil exports,” he said.
The NEXIM Managing Director said the bank is working with both private and public sector partners to develop and improve maritime transportation system through the establishment of a regional shipping company, the Sea link Company Limited, which has the overall objective of bridging maritime infrastructure gaps to ease trade connectivity for coastal and hinterland trade to boost access for Nigerian manufactured exports within the regional market and solid minerals export.
“Having made significant progress, preparatory activities for the Sealink project have reached an advanced stage. The project has consummated a consortium partnership with some private sector maritime operators who have agreed to deploy about twenty vessels after issuance of ‘Notice of Readiness’ by Sealink project.
“As part of the indication of the project’s readiness, we have obtained approval for inland waterways right of way from the National Inland Waterways (Authority) as approved by the government,” he said.
He frowned at the low business activities at the ports in the South-South region of the country, even with the establishment of the first free trade zone in Calabar.