A discount incentive for eastern ports introduced by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), to encourage higher patronage as some operators are not so convinced given other challenges inhibiting operations in the region.NPA had approved a 10 per cent discount on harbour dues in all concession terminals in the Eastern ports, in efforts to increase patronage at the ports.
The General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, Jatto A Adams, who announced the initiative on Monday, said the incentives which became effective immediately, would be implemented at Calabar, Rivers, and Delta Ports.
Under the arrangement, the discount would only apply to harbour dues payable by the following types of vessels/cargoes: Container vessels with at least 250 TEUs; General Cargo vessels with at least 16,000 MT; Combo Vessels with at least 16,000 MT; RORO Vessels with at least 250 units of vehicles.He further explained that the discounts would not apply to: vessels coming INBALLAST; vessels calling at private jetties; vessels calling carrying liquid bulk.
Some operators who spoke with The Guardian on this development rather advised NPA to review the incentive and also fix the necessary infrastructure that would attract traffic to those ports.A stakeholder, Olakunle Ajayi, while lauding the initiative, however argued that the Calabar Port is disadvantaged by the policy. He noted that the clause that only container vessels with at least 250 TEUs would benefit from the incentive should not apply to Calabar, because already no container liner of that capacity can navigate that shallow water channel at the moment.
“If you say only container vessels from 250TEU would benefit from the discount and Calabar channel is 5.4 meters at low tide. What is the assurance that a vessel carrying 250 TEUs can navigate that channel? They should focus on the capital dredging, rather than introducing an incentive that is not practicable, especially in Calabar Port. That condition has nullified the essence of the incentive.
“The Port Harcourt and Warri ports have no challenges with dredging. Most of the vessels calling there are already doing 250TEU and above, so they will benefit from the incentive, but Calabar that has been suffering shallow water draft would not benefit.“As at today, no container liner is coming to Calabar, because of the challenges of shallow draft, the port is really in need of the incentive without such a condition.“What this policy has done is to create additional incentive for Port Harcourt at the expense of Calabar.
“If you really want to attract patronage, you must attend to specific problems. The setting of bar of 250 TEUs is practically impossible. Calabar channel must be dredged. Port Harcourt channel is okay, and Warri has been dredged. What happened to Calabar channel? The channel has not been dredged for the past 11 years, which is a breach of the concession agreement,” he said.
Another operator, Babalola James, said it’s a good effort towards increasing patronage at the Eastern ports, but would have little impact on the ports.
According to him, the issues in the Easter ports are beyond discounts, as “the shippers determine the destination of cargoes, and I think they must be targeted if more patronage is to be driven to those ports.“It is not possible for a shipper to order for shipping to Lagos, and the shipping firm directs it to Warri because it would get discount, which the importer would not benefit. So the Authority must look into giving rebates to shippers who determine the location.
“We have to understand how these things work before applying policies. The way to attract cargo is to attract the owner of the cargo, hence the need to fix the adjoining roads; and the need for capital dredging of the Calabar Port channels,” he said.