By YUSUF BABALOLA,
The over-dependence on the Lagos seaports has been doing a lot of harm to the Nigerian economy, investigations by LEADERSHIP have revealed.
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) operates five seaports across the country namely western Port – Tin-Can Island and Apapa Ports – and Eastern ports- Delta port, Onne port, Calabar and Port-Harcourt ports.
But of all the seaports in the country, the Western port of Apapa and Tin-Can Island are the most viable and preferred ports by importers. The huge concentration on Lagos ports being the commercial nerve centre of the country is limiting the maritime sector’s contribution to national earnings, which contributes as much as 30 per cent of Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP).
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Apapa port handled the most number of inward cargoes accounting for 39% of total inward cargoes and closely followed by Tin Can Island and Delta ports accounting for 31% and 11% respectively. Calabar port accounts for 4.29% to record the least
In 2013, 5,349 vessels berthed at seaports across the country outcome of which 1,692 berthed at Tin-Can Island port, 1,503 at Apapa port and 603, vessels called at Delta port. While 435 berthed at Rivers port, 847 vessels at Onne and 269 at Calabar port.
A total of 5,090 vessels called at Nigerian ports in 2015 out of which 1,774 berthed at Tin-Can Island port followed by 1,399 that berthed at Apapa ports, 540 vessels at Delta port.
390 vessels berthed at Rivers port, 756 at Onne Port and 231 at Calabar port.
Also out of 4,025 vessels that called at Nigerian ports in 2016, 1,097 vessels berthed at the Apapa Port has been dropping gradually from 1,510 in 2013 to 1,097 in 2016 while 1,414 berthed at Tin-Can Island Port and 433 vessels berthed in Delta Ports.
In the same year under review 287 vessels call at Rivers port, 605 vessels at Onne ports and paltry 109 at Calabar port. while in 2016.
Also, the container traffic provisional figure of NPA in 2016 showed that TinCan Island port received 179,443 Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs), while Apapa Port had 136,543 TEUs.
Rivers port had 2,053TEUs, Onne had 44,961TEUs, Delta had 1,961TEUs while Calabar recorded zero container traffic in 2016. Calabar is currently handling only liquid cargo, due to shallow water challenges.
However, while the Customs formation in the two busiest ports, Apapa and Tin-Can Island are raking in billions of Naira on monthly basis, the commands in these other seaports are generating lesser due to low vessel berth.
For instance, in 2016, Apapa Customs Command realised over N299.9billion in its revenue generation from January to December 2016 economic year while Tin-Can Island Customs command generates N256.4b in 2016 but Calabar Customs command that house the Calabar port has could only generate a paltry N5.8 billion for a whole year.
Also, the Port Harcourt Area II of the Customs Service generated N69bn in nine months in 2014 while N61bn was generated in 2013.
Moreover, stakeholders have identified Infrastructural deficiency; Insecurity and shallow draft have been reasons why vessels avoid the Eastern ports.
They argued that putting the oil and gas hub on Security Level 2 of the ISPS Code is having an adverse multiplier effect on the economy of the country while also creating apprehension among shipping lines and crew.
Insurance premium on ships coming into the Onne Port as a result of the heightened security level would increase the freight rates while ships departing the port will experience delays because they would be required to undergo serious security checks in next port of call.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP on why the Eastern port was unable to attract vessels, the President, Shippers Association of Cross River State, (SACRS), Mike Ogodo also confirmed that the Calabar port has been left completely redundant due to it shallow draft and channel.
Also speaking to LEADERSHIP, the National President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Alhaji Olayiwola Shittu said importers have right to take their cargoes to any port it chose.
He also attributed unrest in the Niger Delta as another reason why ships may not call at the eastern ports.