Stakeholders in the maritime industry have called on the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to wake up to its responsibilities in the provision of infrastructure to fast-tract development of eastern ports.
The group has also urged NPA to dialogue with host communities on matters concerning encroachment on the NPA land even as they called on government to partner with private sector, for the development of eastern ports.
The group made its position known in a communiqué at the end of a one-day senstisation seminar on Reviving Eastern Ports in Port Harcourt put together by the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeia (MARAN). But maritime operators however were worried over the spate of low patronage of eastern ports.
In the communiqué, the stakeholders attributed the low level of business activities at the Eastern Ports to non-provision of facilities that will encourage the berthing of bigger vessels in the east, unlike what goes on in Lagos ports.
They regretted that up till now, the Port Harcourt ports still have a draught of about 8.5 metres, while the Calabar Port also suffers 6.5 meters draught.
In his speech, the Chairman of the occasion, Mr Onwuka Igwe, who is the Director of Cabotage in the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, said that the level of inactivities arising from poor infrastructure was responsible for the importers running away from Eastern ports. The move, he said, has not actually helped in the development of the ports in the East, like their counterparts in the western ports.
He, therefore, called on the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority and other private investors to take up the challenge in infrastructural development in the Eastern ports so as to encourage international trade competition in the Eastern ports.
According to him, “the issue of where cargoes go depends on the choice of the importer, and infrastructural availability play key role in such decision making, even though there is also a political aspect to the game.”
But the Chairman, Publicity Committee of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria, Prince Olayeola Shittu agreed that the attitude and activities of some service providers at the ports, particularly at the Eastern ports have impacted negatively on the development of the ports resulting to the congestion at the Lagos ports.
Mr Shittu urged service providers to be more efficient in their services as well as provide training opportunities for the freight forwarders. He said that the council was doing everything possible to ensure that all known bottlenects in freight forwarding business ae removed.
Ealrier in his address, the President of the Maritime Reporters Associationof Nigeria (MARAN), Mr Adeleye Ajayi, said the seminar was inteneded to beam searchlight on the Eastern posrts, which over the years have suffered serious neglect and non-patronage.
He expressed displeasure over military, pilotage, shallow navigational channels and bad roads which occasioned low patroange inthe East. He, therefore, called on the Federal Governemnt to find a logical solution to the problems.