In what seems like an apparent reaction to several months of debilitating congestion in Lagos ports, shipping lines have started a gradual return to Onne ports; Nigeria’s second biggest container terminal located in Rivers State.
Impeccable sources disclosed to Shipping Position Weekly last week that at least two multinational shipping lines have returned to the eastern port of Onne.
Industry sources gave the identities of the companies as Maersk Line and CMA-CMG/Delmas; both of which have commenced voyages from Europe to Onne.
While, Maersk Line will be operating a new schedule from Europe to West Africa with Onne port rather than Apapa port as the port of discharge in Nigeria, CMA-CMG/Delmas, has opened a new dedicated feeder service, between Abidjan and Onne.
The Maersk schedule runs from Europe through Cape Verde to Onne port while Delmas ships will sail from Europe through Abidjan (in Cote D’Ivoire) to Onne port. This is expected to have been flagged-off last Monday, February 9, 2009.
Shipping Position Weekly recalls that shipping lines had boycotted Onne ports a few months back on account of insecurity, since then Lagos ports have been under intense pressure as shippers who had been used to Onne had to contend with making Lagos port their destination.
A cross section of industry stakeholders whose opinions were sampled on the congestion in Lagos ports cautioned that on-going efforts by the management of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to attract vessels to seaports outside Lagos may not bring appreciable result unless importers are encouraged to indicate these seaports as port of destination in their import documents as against adopting a system whereby ships already in the country are made to divert their goods to ports not listed on the manifest.
“To improve patronage by shipping lines to ports outside Lagos, the Federal Ministry of Finance and not the duo of Nigerian Ports Authority and Federal Ministry of Transport, is required to come up with incentives that would encourage importers and manufacturers, especially those in the South East and South- South axis to freight their consignments directly from any part of the world to the Eastern ports” a stakeholder pointed out last week.
According to him, under the current rules on imports, the shipper must indicate the port of destination in the documents being submitted to the banks. Otherwise urging carriers to divert from their scheduled port of destination would attract additional costs to the shipper aside the legal consequences that could result from such an action.
Shipping Position Weekly recalls that the managing director of NPA, Malam Abdusallam Mohammed recently urged shipping companies and RORO carriers operating in the country, to consider patronising eastern ports of Warri, Port Harcourt, Onne and Calabar.
He had assured of attractive concessions for shipping lines willing to discharge cargo in those ports, in line with efforts aimed at reducing pressure on the Lagos ports where at the moment scores of thousands of containers await customs clearance and pick up by the owners.
The managing director was quoted as saying that NPA was not favourably disposed to compelling shipping companies to divert their ships to discharge cargo in any of the eastern ports, in view of the legal and economic implications of such an action.
But an analyst explained that the surest way to compel shipping lines to patronise eastern ports is to educate shippers on the need to indicate their port of preference on their importing documents.
“The simplest way to start is by educating them on the return of Delmas and Maersk to Onne”, he stressed.