Governmentt urged to fix Calabar Port, facilitate trade in Eastern states
• Stakeholders seek dredging, rebate to attract more liners
The Federal Government has been urged to ensure a conducive atmosphere to further attract shipping lines and ultimately boost trade activities in the Eastern region of the country.
This is sequel to the successful berthing of MV Boreas at Ecomarine Terminal, Calabar Port, which had suffered low patronage of container liners due to draft limitations on the channel.
Currently, Calabar channel has a draft of 6.4 meters at high tide, but requires Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), to complete the dredging to the advertised draft of 9.4 meters to attract regular and bigger tonnage.
The Managing Director, Hull Blyth Nigeria Limited, Christian Holm, said his company, which is the shipping agent to Marguisa Lines, owners of the containership, ”MN Boreas”, facilitated the visit of the ship to open up trade and business activities in the eastern ports.
Holm said this while addressing members of the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee investigating why Warri, Port Harcourt, Calabar, and Onne ports are not being put to maximal use.
“We are excited about the willingness of Marguisa Lines to invest in the port and in the new service, and all the new opportunities that opens up for trade and development in Calabar and beyond, now that the port is connected with a global container liner service,” he said.
The MN Boreas vessel is 116.23 meters long, gross tonnage of 6569, and net tonnage of 2874. Built in 2007, the vessel working for a Spain based Marguisa, came with both laden and empty containers and securely anchored at Ecomarine Terminals (ECM).
Holm, however, identified undeveloped infrastructure, shallow water drafts, poor road infrastructure and insecurity as factors hindering large vessels from calling the ports outside Lagos.
He noted that port complexes outside Lagos “have not been upgraded in accordance with modern seaborne trade. This relates especially to containerised trade, where the requirements for sizeable port container yards and related handling equipment are not met.”
He also said that water depth in rivers to the ports and alongside the quays have not been dredged or maintained, thereby giving rise to shallow drafts.
“The shallow drafts prevent access of average sized vessels to the ports, and shipping companies must instead deploy smaller tonnage, which cannot provide economic transportation to most shippers.
“Road infrastructure to connect the ports with the importers and exporters’ places of business lack maintenance, and may often be unmotorable. Delivery and distribution of shipping goods thus become uneconomic or even impossible,” he said.
He said the investment by Marguisa Lines, and the willingness of its customers to use the Calabar Port will be jeopardised “unless the above key issues are urgently addressed by the government.”
Also, the General Manager, Ecomarine Terminals, Diran Akorede, said the berthing of the ‘MN Boreas’ in Calabar signifies a milestone achieved through the strategic marketing by Ecomarine, a terminal concessionaire in Calabar port.
He said: “The berthing of the container vessel at our facility was the crowning moment of the several marketing efforts to attract a liner service to Calabar over the years.”
He acknowledged the purposeful partnership they have enjoyed with NPA over the years, “especially the commitment of the Managing Director of NPA, Ms Hadiza Bala Usman, who, from inception of her tenure has given priority attention to resolving some of the key challenges that have bedevilled the port.”
While emphasizing the need for her to ensure the completion of the dredging, Akorede said in preparation for receipt of container vessels, the terminal invested massively on container handling equipment from inception of the concession most of which have been idle ever since.
“As a port, our pact with Marguisa is to provide and ensure efficient service delivery, quick turnaround for their vessel and incentive scheme to support their voyage profitability. For us, the pact remains as long as the vessel continues to call our terminal,” he stated.
According to him, ECM Terminal is ready to receive more container vessels with its ultra-modern cargo handling equipment.