Recent statistics released by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) indicate that Nigerian ports recorded a higher cargo throughput in 2011, compared to the cargo throughput in 2010.
A statement signed by the NPA General Manager, Public Affairs, Chief Michael Ajayi, penultimate week, showed that the number of ocean-going vessels completed stood at 5,327, reflecting a 7.35 per cent increase over the 4,962 recorded in 2010.
The total gross tonnage of the ocean-going vessels stood at 122,831,704, which showed a 13.08 per cent increase over the 2010 figure of 108,621,872.
Coastal vessels that called at the ports in 2011 stood at 24,298, reflecting 10.69 per cent increase over the 2010 figure of 21,950.
The gross tonnage of the coastal vessels in 2011 was 8,475,599, growing 24.2 per cent over the 6,818,827 in 2010.
Also cargo throughput handled in Nigerian ports increased from 74,910,284 metric tonnes in 2010 to 82,763,384 metric tonnes in 2011, indicating a 10.5 per cent increase. A breakdown from available statistics shows that liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipments in the year under review stood at 22,277,883 metric tonnes, a growth of 15 per cent over the 2010 figure of 19,369,047 metric tonnes.
According to Ajayi, the remarkable improvements witnessed in the ports can be attributed to the improved port infrastructural developments and rehabilitation works that were undertaken by the NPA Management.
The increased throughput recorded at Nigerian ports, indeed, is commendable, but more could be achieved if certain critical structures, such as a more efficient harbour services delivery system, is put in place by the NPA, which still has the brief of marine services after the concession of ports terminals to private operators under the ports reforms.
Not too long, these operators, under the aegis of the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN,) offered a solution when it suggested the engagement of a minimum of between two to three companies should be registered to carry out harbour services at Nigerian ports.
STOAN opined that privatisation of harbour services is what is done internationally. Engagement of more than one company to carry out harbour services will no doubt inject competition and efficiency in the ports industry.
Efficient delivery of harbour services will truly and positively rub-off on ports operations. The current situation that allows for only one company to carry out marine services is not in the best interest of the country.
Therefore, the NPA Management, as a matter of urgency, should look into the engagement of more companies to render real-time harbour.
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