…call for an integrated Master Plan for the transport sector  

By Elizabeth Uwandu 

Stakeholders at strategic group meeting organized by the Nigerian Chambers of Shipping in Lagos have called for the revitalization of the Eastern ports to reduce the over-concentration of maritime activities in the South West and diversify the economy. They argued that the near non-functionality of the ports is a reflection of challenges in the marine sector.

Tagged, “The Economies of the Eastern Ports,” the stakeholders stated that to maximize the economies of the Eastern Ports requires Port Master Plan. It also noted that in addition to the preparation of the Port master plan, is the need for a holistic, integrated approach to the issues, particularly security, container management, ports infrastructure, geographical area of the ports, the relationship between the public and the private sector in maritime activities and the financing requirements. All these must be derivable from a comprehensive transport policy and its resultant shipping policy, the forum noted.

The President, Nigeria Chamber of Shipping, Mr Andy Isichie, said the under-utilisation of the eastern ports has taken a toll on the nation’s economy. According to him, the strategy group meeting is meant to garner Nigeria government commitment to make things work properly. “We gather key stakeholders in the industry to chart the way forward that will see challenges facing the Eastern Ports from functioning being discussed; make recommendations and put all in a draft for necessary steps.

“This is because the challenges of the Eastern Ports reflect the challenges of the Nigerian maritime sector as a whole and thus addressing the issue requires an integrated, holistic, and all-inclusive approach in addressing the Nigerian maritime sector,” NCS president said.

The meeting recorded the presence of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), managing director, Hadiza Bala-Usman, Capt. Iheanacho Ebubeogu; and Admiral Dele Joseph Ezeoba, Nigeria’s 20th Chief of Naval, Mrs Foluke Akinmoladun, managing solicitor, Trizon Law Chambers Joshua Babade, Associate, Trizon Law Chambers.

The stakeholders posited that the Eastern Ports of Nigeria are currently experiencing a high level of sub-optimal utilization and there is a need to address this issue in the light of the current government policy drive on the diversification of the Nigerian economy.

Stressing that the Eastern Ports lack security, which needs to be addressed from four levels namely – social, economic, environmental, physical security challenges, it was noted that this has made it difficult to adequately plan, implement and address the issue in the Nigerian maritime sector particularly the ports, their usages, the ports area infrastructure, multimodal activities around the ports amongst others.

Speaking further, the stakeholders called for a comprehensive shipping policy for Nigeria, stressing that ports security needs a holistic, integrated and multilevel approach that starts with an all-inclusive analysis of the issues that lead up to Nigeria’s maritime security.

According to them, the acceleration of the development of deep sea ports and its attendant infrastructural facilities will significantly increase the economic benefit of the Nigerian Maritime sector. Adding that the ports should be automated to reduce the issues of corruption and gridlocks at the major Nigerian Ports. This is in addition to managing containerized transportation that has become the order of the day in maritime cargo logistics and transportation.

On the development of the Eastern Ports, the forum said it would require increasing the awareness of the existence of these ports. These include educating the communities on international shipping best practices and also educating the shipping communities to enable them to have a better understanding with host communities

Adding that the increased usage of the Eastern Ports will increase traffic of business and in turn significantly increase the economies of scale in the ports and as well boost the local economy around the port area.

Continuing, the stakeholders said that in addressing the security issues around the Eastern Ports, economic integration through poverty alleviation initiatives along with training and development of human capital in these areas will reduce the community interference on the government right of way and outside these ports.

“Government policies can help ensure that the Eastern Ports are well utilized. There is a need for the political will for this to happen. Policies such as the use of the Onne port for oil and gas activities shows that the government can make any port in Nigeria increasingly functional and utilized.”

It was said that the Nigerian Navy has identified 33 checkpoints to ensure adequate maritime domain security, however, only nine are being adequately manned. The Navy also needs the support of necessary stakeholders as far as security in the Eastern port areas is concerned.

Isichei said the Nigerian Chambers of Shipping is committing to giving positive feedback at the next meeting as it ensures that it works with relevant stakeholders in addressing the issues raised at this particular Strategy Group Meeting.

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