By: Chinedu Wosu
In a bid to improve maritime activities and containers traffic at the Eastern Ports, the Federal Government says it would revitalize the ports to reduce huge traffic at Apapa Ports
The government said the aim is to boost trade and maritime activities at the Eastern ports
Minister of State for Transport, Senator. Gbemisola Saraki, stated this in Port Harcourt during a one-day stakeholders workshop with the theme, “Framework to Stimulate Activities and Encourage Patronage in the Eastern Ports”, held at Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt.
Senator Saraki said throughout history, the Eastern Ports of Calabar, Warri, Rivers Port Complex and Onne, Koko, Burutu have played major role in the development of international trade through shipping and nation building
The workshop, she said, was organized to listen to the complaints and gather information on the challenges faced by shippers to enable the government take necessary steps in resolving them.
This, shae said, will be done with a view to encouraging shipping activities at the Eastern Ports, in view of the fact that 75 percent of shippers are from the Eastern region.
She decried that these ports are experiencing a downturn in shipping as a result of dwindling infrastructure, insecurity, low channels draughts, power supply at the ports, including unavailability of marine infrastructures.
The Senator insisted that the revitalization of the Ports would create employment in the region and reduce criminalities.
The Minister also noted that Lagos Ports are over burdened in terms of receiving and handling of inbound and outbound cargos, thereby causing gridlock with its attendant consequence of delay in clearance process, loss of manhour, revenue and corruption.
“I am pleased with this workshop because having noticed that most of the recommendations are to be carried out by the Nigerian Ports Authority and other Agencies supervised by the Federal Ministry of Transportation, it has also created an avenue to enable other relevant ministries, department and agencies involved in shipping to contribute and proffer ways which the resolutions of the committee will be implemented to enhance patronage of the Eastern Ports”, she said.
She noted that the Federal Government has taken steps towards improving the patronage of the Eastern Ports by putting issues of policies, security, and infrastructure in the front burner.
On insecurity, specifically attacks of vessels and kidnapping of crew members, the minister said Nigeria has entered into agreement with an international company to provide water protection to deal with issues of insecurity resulting from piracy, robbery, kidnapping and armed robbery in Nigeria’s waterways.
“We are committed to the deployment of a multi modal system of transportation from all our ports.
“It is our belief that both the government and private sector have important roles to play in contributing to the development of the maritime sector and stakeholders implored to commit, synergize and cooperate towards these efforts to bring patronage to the Eastern ports for the benefit of the nation.
“I therefore expect that at the end of this workshop, the constraints of the shippers within the Eastern Ports axis would have been obtained to enabled government take necessary action in resolving them”, Saraki said.
Earlier, the Acting Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello Koko, said the Authority had set up a committee to look into the low patronage of vessels and investors experienced by the Eastern ports.
Koko noted that the management of NPA is also tackling problems of low cargos and insecurity in the four ports.
He also stated that the NPA is seeking collaboration with the Nigerian Navy in tackling sea piracy in the waterways, especially in Calabar.
The MD noted that in all Ports in the country, it is only Calabar Port that has jetty that services passengers outside the country and appealed to investors to key into the sector to boost water transportation in the country.
He further appealed to importers and exporters to always patronise the Eastern ports for quick delivery of cargoes and inefficiency.
ILO Adopts New Minimum Wage For Seafarers
In a bid to motivate seafarers globally and improve on their productivities, a subcommittiee of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has agreed to raise the minimum wage for seafarers to up to $673 per month
The new wage was agreed following the conclusion of negotiations between shipowners and seafarers’ unions.
Under the resolution agreed by a subcommittee of the ILO’s Joint Maritime Commission (JMC), the minimum basic wage for able seafarers will increase each year for three years starting in January 2023 until the next meeting of the JMC in 2025.
Under the agreement, the minimum wage will be raised to $658 starting January 1, 2023, $666 in 2024, and $673 in 2025 respectively.
During the previous round of negotiations last September, shipowners and seafarer unions set the minimum wage at $648 per month beginning 1 July 2022.
During those negotiations, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), representing the seafarers, originally asked to increase the minimum wage to $683 per month, up 6.5% or a $1.40 per day from the $641 monthly minimum wage that had been in place since 2018.
But shipowners unions, represented by the International Chamber of Shipping, rejected the offer and put forward a plan to increase wages by just 3% over three years, maxing out at $660 per month in 2024.
“The global seafarer workforce is central to the safe and efficient flow of world trade, and they are among the unsung heroes of the pandemic”, spokesman for Swiss Shipowners Association, Charles Darr, said.
A group member in the negotiations said the new deal is a win-win for both shipowners and seafarers.
“It strikes a balance between rewarding seafarers for their incredible contributions to the global economy, and ensures, at the same time, that shipping companies are able to remain sustainable and commercially viable in the light of the many challenges we are currently facing and those that lie ahead”, the member said.
Speaking shortly after the agreement, Spokesman for Seafarers group, Mark Dickinson, of Nautilus International, said:
“Today’s agreement recognises the huge sacrifices and professionalism of the men and women working at sea and is a testament to the collective milestones the social partnership between seafarers and shipowners have historically achieved, especially over the past few years.
“We look forward to continuing to work together alongside our social partners to safeguard financial stability for the world’s seafarers,” he said.
ILO insisted that minimum wage is low by most standards in the developed world, and that it is widely recognised by the global shipping industry as being a positive contribution to decent work and employment for the world’s seafarers.
The minimum basic wage standard falls under the ILO’s Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC 2006), known as the “Seafarers’ Bill of Rights, MLC 2006) which ame into force on 20th August 2013, and has been ratified by 101 ILO member States, representing approximately 96% of global shipping tonnage.
The Joint Maritime Commission (JMC) is a bipartite ILO body comprising employers’ representatives co-ordinated by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and seafarers’ union representatives coordinated by the International Transport Worker’s’ Federation.
‘Benin River Port To Diversify Nigeria’s Economy’
The Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, says the development of the Benin River Port will guarantee the diversification of the nation’s economy from oil, into a buoyant non-oil sector.
He noted that the Port will improve agriculture and agro-allied businesses.
Obaseki, who stated this through his Special Adviser on Special Media, Mr Crusoe Osagie in Benin City, said the Benin Port, on completion, would place the country on the path to sustainable economic growth.
According to him, the project will facilitate the export of agricultural produce, thereby boosting export earnings and stimulating economic growth and development.
The Port, he explained, would also decongest traffic in Lagos Port and facilitate the distribution of goods produced in Edo to other parts of the country.
The Governor condemned the country’s over-dependence on oil and called for increased investment in agriculture to achieve food security, create jobs and improve the livelihoods of citizens.
“The reason we are building the Benin River Port is because of its huge economic benefits to Edo and Nigeria.
“The port will become the closest to the heart of the country so that we will be able to act as a sponge to get whatever we are producing here across other parts of the country”, he said.
Obaseki said his government is investing in palm oil production to drive its economy, adding “we cannot continue to depend on crude oil.
“Our over-reliance on oil has not increased our global competitiveness. We must intensify efforts to diversify the economy away from (crude) oil”, the Governor concluded.
NIWA Targets 2m Containers Shipment By 2025
The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) says it targets a total of two million containers shipment through the Nigerian inland waterways annually by 2025.
Managing Director, NIWA, George Moghalu, disclosed this at a virtual breakfast meeting organised by the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping (NCS).
The meeting has as its theme, “Barge Operations System: A Sustainable Alternative to Land Transportation of Cargoes”.
Represented by the General Manager, Marine, NIWA, Mr Joseph Ororo, Moghalu expressed optimism that the vessel fleet, which includes barge and tugs, would surpass 50,000 in three years.
“The future looks very bright for the inland waterway business as we look forward, that, in the next three years, that is, by the year 2025, we aim to achieve two million containers moved through the inland waterways per annum.
“We expect 500 daily trips of vessel traffic to and from the ports, eight million metric tons of cargoes conveyed on the inland waterways per annum, and employment of two million personnel in this sector”, he said.
Moghalu stated that NIWA inspected and registered 332 barges and 264 tugs of different categories nationwide in 2021, adding that the authority would remain focused on encouraging vast job opportunities in the sector.
He transporting of cargoes by barges was a very important development in the country considering the enormous challenges and bottlenecks being witnessed in other modes of transportation.
According to him, though barge was still a developing mode of transportation in Nigeria, they must admit it was not being well regulated at present.
He, therefore, advised that relevant government agencies responsible for these should synergise to ensure that minimum standard operating procedures were put in place to sustain the activities of barge operators.
“From the barge operators’ point of view, which we cannot dispute for now, they posited that 750,000 containers were moved from the Lagos Port by barges on an average of 50 barge trips per day.
“This statistics is very commendable but not fantastic to be cheered about by all standards, considering the enormous potential and advantages Nigeria has in respect of this.
“We strongly feel that more can be done in this respect,” he said.
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