The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) said that addressing security challenges at the eastern ports alone cannot guaranty viability of the port; it argued that a downward review of government agencies’ tariffs and rates by 30 percent is necessary in order to improve traffic to these ports.
This position was canvassed by the managing director of the NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman at a strategy group meeting organised by Nigerian Chamber of Shipping (NCS) on how to increase patronage to the Eastern ports. It held in Lagos on Wednesday.
Usman who was represented by the General Manager, Security, Capt. Iheanacho Ebubeogu, said every agencies of government must reduce their tariff across board to attract cargoes from importers to eastern ports.
According to him, if the cost differentials between the Lagos port and the Eastern port is down by 30percent, importers will be attracted to use the ports.
"We must look at our tariff across board. We have reviewed our tariff earlier and only NPA did it and when I mean review of tariff across board, NPA tariff has to come down, NIMASA should review their Cabotage tariff, Customs tariff should come down so that if the differential between ports in Lagos and eastern port is 30 percent, people can be motivated given that security had been addressed."
"I don't want us to think if we have addressed security, everything has been achieved, but other cost component must also come down."
Usman however called on improved synergy between NPA and security agencies to ensure comfort to shipping and prevent host communities from interfering in shipping.
"The first thing to improve our port is a synergy between NPA and security agencies to ensure comfort to shipping. Comfort to shipping is security and also to dissuade the host communities from interfering in government right of way”, she added.
The NPA boss, who also identified the need for development of deep seaports for bigger vessels to call at Nigerian ports, said Nigeria current draft cannot handle modern vessels.
"Because our channels are long it is good for Nigeria port authority to carry out dredging optimisation study which we have started and that will show us how nature is fighting us.
"Also, the only thing for us to do is for us to have deep seaport where this bigger ships will come in because we have responded to economic of scales where these other ports will become transhipment port with the inland container depot to get all goods to geographical coverage area.
"If we don't do that, we will see ships going to Abidjan, Senegal because they have deeper draft and they lighten the cargo before they come to our port despite the fact that some of these cargoes are meant for Nigeria."
She also acknowledged that promoters of new seaports in Nigeria should make plans for port master plans instead of planning for the port alone to forestall the Apapa mistake.
"As we are building port, let us embark on port master plan and not port planning. Port planning is what we do to cover jurisdiction of the port, but port master plan is done to entail the port and its maritime environment."
"All ports these days embark on port master plan and if NPA has had the vision of embarking on port master plan, the whole of Creek Road would have been own by the authority.
"Owning the Creek Road will be done to regulate the tenancy and if we have Creek Road, NPA would not have allowed two tank farms to be there and also, the traffic flow from port city development will not be too much in conflict with the port," she said.
Speaking earlier, the President of the Nigeria Chamber of Shipping; Mr Andy Isichie said the underutilisation of the Eastern ports have taken toll on the nation's economy.
Isichie in his opening remark said the underutilisation of the Eastern ports contributed to the gridlocks experienced daily on the road leading to Apapa and Tin Can Island Port.
According to him, shallow draft, insecurity and port cost have been attributed to the factors responsible for the underutilisation of the eastern ports.
He said, "70 to 80 percent of the cargoes coming to Nigeria come in through Lagos ports and we want to know why."
He sated further, "Also, shallow draft, insecurity have been identified with the underutilisation. In fact, some are saying low freight, expensive port ,but another believed larger volumes will drive down costs."
He however concluded that effective utilisation of the eastern ports would solve the danger Apapa traffic is having on public infrastructure and human lives