Investigations by Shipping Position Daily have revealed real reasons the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) failed to implement its directive on vessel diversion to eastern ports.
Recall that the NPA had directed that, as from 27th of January, it will start diverting vessels that were supposed to berth in Lagos ports, but which could not due to congestion. They were to be sent to the eastern ports of Onne, Rivers, Calabar and Warri.
However, two weeks after the directives was issued, Shipping Position Daily observed that there has not been diversion of any vessel from the Lagos to any of the eastern ports.
Some stakeholders had attributed it to security concerns in the Niger Delta which hosts these ports, while some believed the NPA may have stopped the diversion due to political or economic reasons.
Speaking with Shipping Position Daily correspondent, the immediate past President of the Nigerian Merchant Navy and Water Transport Senior Staff Association, Engr. Matthew Alalade said the NPA must have halted the diversion due to the increasing insecurity in the area.
He said the NPA must have considered the risk involved in diverting cargoes to the region and decided to stop the action.
According to him “The diversion of vessels is a good thing but in the wrong direction, in the sense that security matters a lot, they should secure the water ways in that region first, we don’t know what the government is doing about that, because if you don’t secure the place, who will want to take his vessel there, most of the shippers believe that Lagos is relatively secured for them, the diversion is good, but insecurity in the region is the problem” he said.
On his part Mr. Pius Ujubuonu a member of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) had a contrary opinion, stating that the NPA must have halted the diversion due to economic or political reasons and not as a result of insecurity in the region.
“Maybe there are some other economic or political reasons why they are delaying, otherwise that is the right thing they are supposed to do, and most of the port are idle and not doing anything, the best thing is instead of concentrating everything in the west here, the best thing to do is to send ships to the east, so that the Lagos port can be decongested. So it is not about insecurity, the insecurity we have is in the Gulf of Guinea and the Gulf of Guinea includes Lagos”.
Speaking also, Chief Ernest Elochukwu the Chief Executive Officer of Nestellos Gateway Group, who operates in Port Harcourt, said that insecurity in the region is being exaggerated, adding that a wrong impression is being created about Nigeria in order to scare away investors.
“I think there is a wrong impression created, that there is insecurity at the eastern port, the challenge is about Nigeria as a whole”
“The movement of cargoes to eastern ports is not something that should be causing confusion because there is congestion at Apapa and Tin Can Port, these ports were built with public funds, and in other countries there is deliberate allocation of cargoes or tonnage to various ports to ensure that there is a balanced use of the port”, he stressed.
According to him, “a situation whereby it was left on its own to run, maybe the shipper prefers Apapa port, because it is closer for them to drop the cargo, but this is not good for our maritime industry”
“We can actually look at the issue of the congestion to see how we can do equitable cargo distribution in the country, because some of the factors causing the difficulty are created because there is scarcity around there”
But, in a swift reaction as to why the NPA halted the diversion, the General Manager Corporate and Strategic Communications of NPA; Mr . Jatto Adams said the agency did not halt the diversion.
He said NPA is still coping with the situation in Lagos, by sharing the vessels to different terminals in Lagos, he said NPA will only consider diverting the ships to eastern ports, only when it is expedient to do so.
“The directive is still in place, we have to cope with what we have now before anyone can now be moved to the eastern ports, the essence is for us to decongest the port, that is why we have to do it from terminal to terminal, its only when it is expedient that we now ask them to move to the eastern port” he said.