Retired General Manager, (Marine & Operations) at the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Capt Iheanacho Ebubeogu says the recent 30 percent tariff reduction the NPA plans to encourage business at the eastern ports may not serve the intended purpose. Other incentives must be introduced.
The tariff may not be up to 30 percent but is should be accompanied with reasonable reduction in other charges such as customs duties and cargo handling charges by terminal operators to attract meaningful patronage to the abandoned eastern ports.
It is recalled that the NPA Managing Director,Mohammed Bello-Koko, recently muted a 30-percent NPA tariff-relief, as part of a vision to attract patronage to the Eastern ports, like Calabar, Warri and Port Harcourt.
Ebubeogu who, at a time, headed a sub-committee for the restoration and rejuvenation of the Eastern ports, however, said other measures must be considered, beyond the issues of tariff waivers.
Security threats to shipping is not limited to piracy, armed robbery and all that. It goes to all those things that shipping is sensitive to within a shipping-denominated area, including undue community interference in the Government’s right of way, etc.”
Capt. Ebubeogu stressed that the security of the entire channel, between Fairway Buoy to the Port’s Quay also matters. Until shipping companies, including Shippers are assured of the total absence of interventions which could cause delays and increase their operational costs or charges, he stated, a port may not thrive.
Highlighting that it costs between $30,000 to $50,000 or more per day to run some ships, the highly informed Industry Consultant noted that every operator is constantly mindful of interferences that could either shoot up running costs or hike payment of demurrage.
He stated that the safety of cargoes of shippers must be assured before they are encouraged to use a port despite the value of tariff reduction and other waivers offered them.
He emphasized the issue of permissible depth of the ports in the Eastern ports, viz a viz the growing numbers of the extra-large vessels presently being fielded, against the reality of rapidly increasing rate of siltation in the Eastern ports areas, being the natural lower course of the River Niger.
On the depth of the eastern ports and the rapidity of siltation of the channel, he canvassed timely and constant maintainance dredging. Otherwise, the viability of the Eastern ports and achieving the desired draught may remain a pipe dream.
Another issue, he stated, is infrastructural degradation. He highlighted the problem of breakwaters in the Escravos which deserves close attention as it is important to restore it to the normal condition.
“If you go to the Escravos now, the breakwater is gone. The breakwaters is a stone-like type of arrangement which is done, to keep away the effect of storms carrying sands through waves, to block the channel”, he said, pointing out that NPA must also boldly take care of it, in order to make the channel truly safer.