Eastern Ports’ Insecurity: NPA Asks Operators To Direct Complaints To NIMASA, Navy

Eastern Ports’ Insecurity: NPA Asks Operators To Direct Complaints To NIMASA, Navy· Terminals demand 10% discount for all vessels

· PTOL acquires new stackers, announces improved services

By Kenneth Jukpor

Worried by the incessant complaints from Eastern port operators as a result of the high cost of security, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has urged the operators to direct their complaints to the Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), who have the onus of ensuring safety of the nation’s territorial waters.

The Managing Director of NPA, Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman said this last week, while pointing out that the Authority had been magnanimous enough to introduce 10% discount on harbour dues in all concessioned terminals at the Eastern Ports.

The Authority came up with the waiver as part of efforts to increase patronage at the Eastern Ports, however, there are specified types of vessels that would benefit, such as container vessels with at least 250 TEUs; general cargo vessels with at least 16,000 MT, vessels with at least 16,000 MT and RORO vessels with at least 250 units of vehicles.

Subsequently, terminal operators in the region have called on Authority to expand the scope of the recently introduced 10% discount on harbour dues in the region to all categories of vessels that call at the ports affected by the initiative, which are; Calabar, Rivers and Delta Ports.

One month after the introduction of this discount, operators in the Eastern ports have said that they are yet to record any impact in ship traffic as a result of the waiver.

Speaking with MMS Plus on this issue at the weekend, the General Manager, BUA Ports and Terminal Limited, Port Harcourt, Mr. Mohammed Ibrahim said; “The NPA 10% discount on shipping dues hasn’t made any impact because it isn’t a generally applied discount.  It is for some categories of vessels. My advice to NPA would be that they expand the discount to accommodate all ships coming to the Eastern ports. Private jetties can be excluded but all vessels coming to the Eastern ports should be able to enjoy that 10% discount on ship dues, instead of limiting it to some vessels”

Ibrahim who spoke to our correspondent during the commissioning of two new reach stackers acquired by Ports and Terminal Operators Limited (PTOL) in Port Harcourt, argued that since all vessels, including fishing vessels require security onboard, the additional cost of armed guards far outweighs the 10% discount on ship dues, so the discount should be for all categories of vessels.

“The 10% discount can’t cater for the cost of security but it could help reduce the cost of their services. There are armed guards onboard all these vessels because of the security threats on the anchorage, so it would be nice to have the waiver across board” he said.

Meanwhile, responding to this plea to expand the waivers to carter for all categories of vessels and improving the percentage to cater for the cost of hiring armed guards onboard vessels, the Managing Director of NPA, Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman maintained that the Authority has been magnanimous enough to come up with the 10% discount, directing the operators to take their complaints to the Nigerian Navy and NIMASA.

She shared the concerns of the Eastern port operators, attesting that it was still very expensive to operate at the Eastern ports because of activities of sea pirates and militants attacking vessels, therefore she urged the relevant authorities to work assiduously towards eradicating the menace of piracy on the nation’s waterways, especially around the Eastern ports.

Meanwhile, she encouraged stakeholders to take advantage of the 10% waiver on shipping dues provided by NPA recently.

“At the Eastern ports, we have observed that it costs more to secure your vessel, this is the complaint we received and this discourages people from going to Eastern ports. The high cost of securing the vessel as it comes into the port due to the activities of the militants, this is the challenge and we have notified the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) and the Nigerian Navy on the need to amplify the security deployment in that area to mitigate against the high rate of piracy attacks in the eastern ports region”, she said.

Speaking with MMS Plus at the commissioning of two new reach stackers by Ports and Terminal Operators (Nig.) Limited (PTOL), in Port Harcourt, the General Manager, PTOL, Mr. Ephraim Efiota admonished port stakeholders in the Eastern region to publicize the current tranquility of the waters to endear the ports to importers.

The PTOL boss noted that throughout his ten weeks as the General Manager at PTOL, there have not been reports of any incident of piracy or any form of security breaches in the region.

“I’ve not heard of any security issue since my arrival here but I’m barely ten weeks old. However, I learnt that there was so much insecurity along the waterways in the past. So, I’ll say it’s been abated and when it comes to security, we should be careful with the kind of information we are giving out. If it is abated, we should say it is abated. We must not keep talking based on the past experience. Otherwise, we would send out wrong signals and that is why ship-owners impose all kinds of surcharges on vessels coming to our ports” he said.

While the two new stackers brings the company’s total number of stackers to nine, he revealed that the terminal had plans to acquire additional stackers and cranes as part of its re-engineering process to meet and exceed its competitors in terms of efficiency in cargo handling operations.

Efiota stated that the terminal has also brought in the requisite personnel for port operations and cargo operations as well as a statistician who would publish statistical data for analysis and comparison with other terminal operators.

As part of efforts to prevent traffic gridlock from indiscriminate parking of trucks, he revealed that the company had plans to provide a truck park and additional space to store empty containers.

“We are aware of the need to have a truck park, so, we are discussing with one of the neighbouring jetties that has a large space. We want to work together in order to utilize the available space as a truck park and we can also use the area to stack empty containers” he added.

While he noted that PTOL operates in a very competitive market, Efiota attributed the increased activities at the terminal to the efforts of the former Managing Director, late Mrs. Lizzy Ovbude.

“Take a tour of the terminal and you would see that after the serious marketing drive that was carried out by our former Managing Director, late Mrs. Lizzy Ovbude, several importers now bring in their cargoes through this port. Honestly, I would say we even have difficulty attending to all the vessels that come to our terminal,” he added.

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