By Kenneth Jukpor
Maritime experts have called for a comprehensive shipping policy as a critical factor to transform the fortunes of the nations shipping sector, especially the Eastern ports.
The shipping veterans who converged at a meeting organized by the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping (NCS) to deliberate on the “Economies of the Eastern Ports”, posited that the lack of a comprehensive shipping policy which should be drawn from the nation’s transportation policy has made it difficult for the country to adequately plan and address the issues in the port sector especially in the port area infrastructure and multimodal activities around the ports.
The strategy group agreed that insecurity and the shallow draft of the eastern ports have been the major issues limiting the ports, noting that the challenges of the Eastern ports reflect the challenges of the entire maritime sector in the country.
In his presentation at the meeting, Admiral Dele Ezeoba (Rtd) lamented that the lack of political will to optimize the potentials of the Eastern ports and not economics of scale crippled the ports, adding that one of the ways to make the ports more functional would be dedicating them as specialized ports for specific cargoes.
Ezeoba, who was speaking on a paper titled; “Maximizing the Economies of the Eastern Port: Security Imperatives” admonished the government to address the socio-economic threats, environmental challenges and the well-being of the citizens in the region, noting that the government’s negligence on those factors gave birth to piracy and armed robbery at sea.
In order to address this problem of insecurity the communiqué from the event read; “In addressing insecurity at the Eastern ports, economic integration through poverty elimination programmes and training of the human capital in those areas would reduce the community interference on the government right of way in those areas”
The communiqué also stated that the acceleration of the development of the deep seaports and the attendant infrastructure facilities would significantly increase the economic benefits of the Nigerian maritime sector.
The group also noted that the ports should be automated to help reduce the issues of corruption and gridlocks at the major Nigerian ports. In addition, port managers should address managing containerized transportation.
In his closing remarks, the President of the Chamber of Shipping, Mr. Andy Isichei commended the veterans who attended the meeting, noted that the heated discourse showed that most Nigerians were deeply concerned about the success of the industry.
“In my opening address, I mentioned that we would aggregate the discussion and workout the way forward. We would put them into segments such as; immediate issues that need to be addressed, short term and long term issues” he said.
He expressed confidence that the fact that most of the key stakeholders were members of NCS Governing Council would lead to a robust and intense engagement to address the issues and commended the participants.
The strategic team included Directors from the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), terminal operators, freight forwarders, maritime lawyers, top Navy personnel, resource persons, seasoned journalists, among others.