The Minister of Transport, Sen. Idris Umar, urged the Committee on Enhancement of River and Sea Ports to identify challenges confronting business activities at the Eastern Ports.
Umar gave the charge in Abuja while inaugurating the Ministerial Committee on the Framework to Encourage and Stimulate Patronage and Activities in the Eastern Ports.
According to the minister, inauguration of the committee is in line with the commitment, particularly the 30th National Economic Management Team Meeting held in September, to increase the utilisation of the Eastern Ports.
“The ports comprise Onne in Rivers State, Port Harcourt, Calabar and Delta Ports of Warri, Sapele and Koko.
“Apart from encouraging patronage of the Eastern Ports, it will further help decongest the Lagos ports.
“This will enhance opportunities that are inherent in the linkages of these ports with the Inland Waterways and attendant opportunities associated with it.’’
He urged the committee to ascertain the level of utilisation of the Eastern Ports and identify constraints and challenges confronting business activities in the ports.
Umar said the committee would link the utilisation of the Eastern Ports to the Inland River Ports being constructed along the inland waterways.
He directed the committee to study trade patterns, volume of freight and passenger traffic between the neighbouring countries, with a view to introducing measures capable of stimulating patronage of the ports.
The minister disclosed that four reform bills were being processed.
He listed the bills to include the National Transport Commission Bill, the Nigerian Ports and Harbour Bill, the National Inland Waterways Bill and the Nigerian Railway Authority Bill.
The minister said the ministry also set up a committee which had produced guidelines on Stevedoring and Dock Workers Operations as well as Cabotage Waiver, which were in the process of being gazetted.
Umar, however, said two other committees on Cargo Support Policy and Search and Rescue Operational Guidelines on the national inland waterways, set up by the ministry, would soon submit their reports.
Responding, the Chairman of the Committee, Mrs Dabney Shall-Holma, noted that the Eastern Ports had been under-serviced over the years due to the lack of logistics optimization.
Shall-Holma said this had resulted in insufficient connectivity, poor networks, low opportunities and poor development of their potential.
“There is no doubt that the creation of an efficient and diversified port system as well as adequate and state-of-the-art freight handling facilities will make the ports more attractive.
“Implementing best practices in areas like security, safety of navigation and operational procedures, general management and improvement in multimodal links on the land side and inland waterways will address the challenges.
“The deliverable will include increase in port traffic and cargo throughput, new markets and will boost development in the national economy,’’ she said.
She underscored the importance of determination on the part of the committee members and cooperation of all stakeholders both in the maritime industry and the national economy to address the challenges.
Source: The Guardian