While inaugurating a Project Development and Steering Committee (PDSC) for Ibaka Deep Seaport in Akwa-Ibom State, at the Conference Room of the Federal Ministry of Transport, Abuja last Tuesday, Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, said that the current capacities of the seaports in the country are already overstretched.
Umar said this why explaining the rationale behind Federal Government’s partnership with the kwa- Ibom State Government and the private sector in the development of a deep seaport in Ibaka.
According to the Minister : “It is important to note that the maritime sector of Nigeria, with over 84,000 square nautical miles, is central to the nation’s economy as a veritable medium of transportation, global commerce, resource exploitation and recreation. To maximise the potentials of this key sector to the economy, government has created the enabling environment to encourage public private partnership particularly in the development of seaports to facilitate international trade. It is not in doubt that the nation’s existing six ports are over stretched. With an overall handling capacity of 60 Million Metric tonnes per annum, the ports presently, cater for over 100 million metric tonnes per annum. It is, therefore, evident that the existing ports cannot cope with the current demand of the sector.”
The country, according to him, has six seaports located in Apapa, Lagos; Warri, Delta State; Calabar, Cross River; and Port-Harcourt and Onne, River State, as well as several jetties spread across the country.
While we may agree with the Minister that the two ports in Lagos – that is the Lagos Port Complex (LPC) and the Tin-Can Island Port Complex (TCIPC) – are overstretched, the same cannot be said of the ports in Warri, Calabar, Port-Harcourt, Onne and the jetties. Likewise for the Onitsha Port Complex in Anambra State.
Stakeholders, especially concessionaires and freight forwarders, doing business at the ports in Warri, Calabar, Port-Harcourt and Onne have been complaining of low business activities at these facilities.
They have equally complained that importers prefer to use the ports in Lagos, rather than these other ports, bearing in mind that Lagos is a commercial hub.
Some factors that stakeholders have identified for the dwindling fortunes of the ports outside Lagos are their shallower draughts and higher freight charges, when compared with the ports in Lagos.
While we do not query the development of a deep seaport in Ibaka, since it will encourage the visit of bigger vessels, we beg to disagree with the Minister that the existing six ports in Nigeria are overstretched.
We equally want to disagree with the Minister on the current handling capacity of the ports in the country.
According to statistics obtained from the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), cargo throughput handled in Nigerian ports increased from 74,910,284 metric tonnes in 2010 to 82,763,384 metric tonnes in 2011.
Then, where did the Minister get the over 100 million metric tonnes per annum, he quoted? Government desire to open up the port industry for further development is understandable, but that ambition should not be prosecuted at the expense of existing ports.
It will be wise for government to invest some of the monies that will be used in the development of new deep seaports in making the so-called Eastern Ports more attractive to importers through the deepening of their channels to encourage bigger vessels to visit them.
While developing the Ibaka Deep Seaport, government must pay serious attention to the already existing Eastern Ports, so that they don’t become monuments of no value.
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