Ten years after Calabar Port was concessioned with a promise that the port channel will be dredged to its advertised draught, Ecomarine Terminal Limited, the operator of the facility has lamented that its operations have been severely hampered by the shallow depth of the port’s access channel.
Speaking at a meeting in Lagos recently, Managing Director, Ecomarine Terminals Limited, Mr Moruf Balogun, lamented that after meeting its contract obligations by acquiring requisite cargo handling plants and other equipment, it has been unable to engage in meaningful activities as the port has not enjoyed significant ship call.
After investing heavily in acquiring modern container handling equipment and other gears since the commencement of port concession, Balogun said the absence of ships has made the infrastructure to be idle.
According to him, the agreement spelt out that Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) would dredge the channel at regular intervals; yet since 2004 when the concession took effect, no dredging has been carried out on the channel by the government.
Given the strategic location of Calabar Port, he said it was positioned to be the gateway to the shipping community in the middle belt and north eastern part of the country, noting that Nigeria cannot achieve her aspiration of becoming a regional maritime hub when all activities are concentrated in Lagos ports.
The Ecomarine boss said lack of political will on the part of government through the NPA has prevented vessels from calling at Calabar Port .
“The first thing we did after the concession was to invest massively in container handling equipment because we recognised the need to actually improve on productivity. But the agreement with the government states that NPA must keep the channel harnessed for ships to call. As at today which is over 10 years down the line that channel is still shallow.
“The most critical limiting factor affecting cargo traffic in Calabar outside other factors is the limitation imposed by non-completion of the dredging of the channel to the advertised draught of 10 metres,” Balogun stated.
With the trend in modern global shipping where bigger ships are now being built to lift more cargo at lower cost, Calabar Port will continue to miss out on its potentials. He called on the federal government to pay special attention to Calabar Port and dredge the channel.
Balogun said it will have multiplier effect on the economy as the pressure on Lagos ports will be reduced, enabling shippers in the eastern part of the country to enjoy limited logistic challenges in importing their goods.
SOURCE: The Nigerian Voice (local news)