By Afolabi Oyekunle.
Worried by deplorable state of the nation’s port infrastructure especially at the Tin Can Island Port (TCIP) presently characterized by collapsing quay aprons and huge gullies, Nigeria’s foremost Maritime beat association, Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN) organized a strategic industry stakeholders summit to provide answers to this menace.
The event, which held on Thursday, July 6th, 2023, also featured the inauguration of the new executives of MARAN, even as port stakeholders explored numerous angles on the theme: “Rehabilitation of Tin Can Island Port: Proffering Workable Solutions”
The occasion was chaired by the Head of Research, Sea Empowerment Research Centre, Dr. Eugene Nweke. Other eminent port stakeholders were; Chairman, Board of Trustees, Nigeria Shipowners’ Association (NISA), Chief Isaac Jolapomo; Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Hon. Emmanuel Jime; former Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Temisan Omatseye.
The Guest Speaker, Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mr. Mohammed Bello-Koko, was represented by the General Manager, Managing Director’s office at Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mr. Ayo Durowaiye. Other dignitaries who made worthwhile contributions were; President General, Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Prince Adewale Adeyanju; President, Barge Operators Association of Nigeria (BOAN), Hon. Olubunmi Olumekun; among others.
Underlining the essence of the conference in his welcome address, the President, Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN), Mr. Godfrey Bivbere asserted that the nation is bound to record revenue shortfalls as a result of the rapidly deteriorating port infrastructure. He called for the removal of the maintenance/replacement of critical maritime infrastructure from the government procurement processes.
On his part, the Chairman of the occasion, Dr. Eugene Nweke opined that the current state of the nation’s port should inspire the declaration of state of emergency with collapsed quay aprons and other flaws at seaports.
In his keynote address, the NPA Managing Director observed that Tin Can and Apapa ports account for over 60 percent of the nation’s cargo traffic annually even as he expressed regret that the TCIP port facility has been overstretched since established in 1977.
Numerous worthwhile contributions were made at the conference and the following observations were drawn:
- Ports are vital components in the shipping business and should act as the physical interchange or middle grounds for the trading community.
- Tin Can Island Port has become a mess and disaster as a result of huge traffic amid poor port infrastructure affecting the immediate community and the entirety of Lagos.
- Federal Government will be unable to collect the projected revenue from the nation’s seaports when deteriorating port infrastructure leads to dwindling ship calls and cargo traffic.
- Besides NPA, the entire port community is affected one way or the other by the collapsing infrastructure, beginning with the terminal operators, port users and other agencies at the port.
- If Nigeria will be competitive in maritime business and attain hub port status in the West and Central African sub-region, the nation must develop port infrastructure that meet global best standards.
- Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) was on the verge of withdrawing its services from the Tin Can Island Port on account of the deplorable state of infrastructure, especially at Five Star Logistics Terminal.
- The problem of collapsing quay aprons at Tin Can Island Port is top on the NPA Infrastructural Renewal Agenda of the Authority as the port has been operating far above its as-built capacity.
- Empty containers represent a major challenge adding pressure to the already stretched port facilities.
- NPA is exploring funding options to address the collapsing quay aprons at Tin Can Island Port and other ports in the country, with emphasis on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) initiatives.
- The tariff regime of some of the government agencies are cumbersome for barge operators who earn their income in naira but are mandated to pay regulatory charges in dollars besides the N50 million bond.
- Stakeholders expressed worry that failures of the operators in the maritime industry to adhere to international best practices puts pressure on the regulators.
- Except urgent actions are taken to provide alternative modes of cargo evacuation from the Lekki Deep Seaport, Lekki Port may become a logistics disaster worse than Apapa and Tin Can Island Port environs.
- The persistent appointment of politicians to head maritime agencies further compound the problems in the sector with poor understanding of the technicalities of the sector.
- Stakeholders at the breakfast meeting called on the Nigerian President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to appoint technocrats to lead strategic agencies in the maritime industry to guide efficient ports operations.
- Effective utilisation of the nation’s waterways for barging and river terminals could reduce the pressure on Lagos ports leading to economic activities in other parts of the nation.
- Training and manpower development according to the stakeholders will ensure skilled manpower in the Maritime sector and fast track efficiency at the ports.
- A declaration of state of emergency at TCIP and other ports will create the sense of urgency required to address the problems at the ports.
- Port operators and other industry stakeholders should be forward thinking and seek to proffer solutions to NPA on the port infrastructure challenges.
- The issue of security threats at the Eastern ports and waterways is being exaggerated, hence, there is a need to enlighten port users on the profitability and ease of operations utilising the Eastern ports.
- Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) should reconsider its levies on barge operators collected in dollars instead of naira as the operators collect their earning in naira.
- Insurance guarantees and other mechanisms should be explored to replace the N50 million bond requirement for licensing barge operators in the country.
- Port stakeholders are urged to avail themselves and patronise the industry port portals created by the Nigeria Shippers Council, serving as value addition mechanism to port users.
- Technocrats and industry experts should be appointed to lead maritime agencies to ensure persistent development of the port sector driven by quality leadership.
Noting the bureaucratic bottlenecks in government funding, stakeholders opined workable funding approaches for the collapsing quay apron at the Tin Can Port and other similar challenges as well will have to be addressed via private driven alternatives or Public-Private Partnerships (PPP).
For emphasis, MARAN hereby reinstate that, it is crucial for the Nigerian ports to be run and controlled as efficient organisations.
While pointing out on one hand that, inefficiencies of the port will result in costly delays for ship owners, who can ill afford it, especially, when the daily costs of running a big container ship are so high, on the other hand it noted that port infrastructure dilapidation will result to poor national port image ranking globally and loss of vessel call at the Nigeria ports with associated revenue loss.
MARAN strongly believes that this is the era of MEGA CARRIERS, which entails that, a port is equipped with the most modern cargo handling facilities, so as to keep productivity at an optimum level.
It therefore frowned seriously at the deplorable state of the Nigerian ports and urged the government to rise to the occasion to support the Nigeria Ports Authority in its ports rehabilitation agenda.
MARAN equally promised to prioritise solution-based journalism to tackle critical challenges plaguing the nation’s maritime sector, especially under the result-driven leadership of the newly inaugurated executives.