By: Afolabi Oyekunle.
A former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Temisan Omatseye said it is imperative to develop riverine ports towards driving traffic from Lagos ports and a solution to the deplorable state of infrastructure at the Tin Can Island port and other ports in Lagos.
Omatseye spoke in Lagos at a breakfast meeting organised by the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria to address the poor situation of the Quay at the Tin Can Island Port.
The occasion was attended by many stakeholders in the maritime sector.
Under the theme “Rehabilitation of Tin Can Island Port: Proffering Workable Solutions,” Omatseye emphasized the need for the government to recognize and appreciate the value of riverine transportation in Nigeria.
He highlighted that when riverine transportation is effectively utilized, it creates employment opportunities that extend to various regions across the country.
Omatseye proposed a radical approach to alleviate the strain on the overburdened Tin Can Island port.
He suggested that terminal operators should only be allowed to operate in Lagos if they have a waterfront location, promoting the relocation of operations to areas like Epe or Ikorodu.
He further advocated for the establishment of a terminal in Ijebu waterside, with the assistance of the Ondo state government, and the construction of a dual carriage road to Ore. “This strategic development would encourage cargo movement away from Lagos, ultimately easing the strain on the port and boosting the economy of other regions.”
The former NIMASA Director General also urged the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to initiate joint ventures with barge operators and invest in first-class equipment.
He emphasized the importance of smaller feeder vessels with a draft capacity of 5.9 meters to transport cargo to ports in Warri, Koko, Ugala, Calabar, and other areas. Omatseye emphasized that the cost of moving cargo via water transportation to these ports would be significantly lower than traditional trucking methods, offering a viable and efficient alternative.
The proposal to develop riverine ports received widespread support from attendees at the breakfast meeting.
Chairman of the occasion Dr. Eugene Nweke expressed the need for urgent attention to the critical infrastructure at seaports and suggested declaring a state of emergency.
He emphasized that ports play a vital role in the nation’s economy and trade facilitation, and inefficiencies in the port system result in costly delays for ship owners.
The NPA Managing Director who was represented by General Manager Managing Director Office, Ayo Durowaye, acknowledged the significance of the Tin Can and Apapa ports, which account for over 60 percent of the nation’s cargo traffic annually. While admitting the current state of the Tin Can port and the need for repairs, he highlighted recent accomplishments such as accommodating the largest Roro vessel at the port.
With the spotlight on the development of riverine ports, other stakeholders in the maritime industry present at the event urged the government to take decisive action to address the deplorable state of infrastructure at the Tin Can Island port and promote a more efficient and sustainable transportation system in Nigeria.
In his Welcome Address, the new President of MARAN, Mr. Godfrey Bivbere thanked stakeholders for attending the occasion. He called on the federal government to consider exempting maritime agencies from certain bureaucratic processes to enable them quickly address issues like the one at Tincan Island Port.
According to Bivbere, “While it is expected tthat some people would have been pointing accusing fingers at the Nigerian Ports Authority for allowing such critical facility deteriorate to the point they are presently, it must be said that being a government parastatal; fortunately and unfortunately, its capital expenditure must have to pass through the procurement processes which takes a lot of time.
“I doubt if there’s anybody here who is not familiar with our bureaucratic bottleneck.
As stakeholders in the maritime sector, we all know that some capital projects in the industry do not have the luxury of time with regards to their execution.
“It is my considered view therefore, that given our circumstances, the Federal Government should become more representative and exempt the maintenance or replacement of critical facilities from the Civil Service procurement processes”, he opined.
Speaking further, Bivbere added that another challenge faced by not just the NPA but all government agencies in the industry is the involvement of politicians in almost all financial expenditures, which according to him, makes it often difficult for things to get done correctly.
The new executive of the Maran was inaugurated at the lively occasion.