YUSUF BABALOLA, Lagos
The West Africa Container Terminal (WACT) on Tuesday 6 October 2020, moved a step further to realizing its vision of becoming the ‘Gateway to East Nigeria & beyond’as it commissioned two new state-of-the-art Mobile Harbor Cranes (MHCs) and two Reach Stackers to boost efficiency and cargo handling operation at the Onne Port, Rivers State.
The additional container handling equipment will further improve the already quick turnaround time for vessels calling WACT.
The two new Mobile Harbor Cranes and handling equipment acquired by WACT are valued at $15 million. With the acquisition and commissioning of the new cranes, WACT now boasts of four MHCs deployed into its operations, with one more planned to arrive in 2021.
Speaking at the commissioning ceremony of the new cranes in Onne, Rivers State on Tuesday, the Managing Director of WACT, Mr. Aamir Mirza, said the latest set of equipment were acquired as part of the terminal’s $100 million investment announced in 2019 to significantly increase the terminal capacity.
“Our equipment and infrastructure upgrade are the key enablers for WACT to better serve her customers. Our cranes shall offer improved and higher productivity, which means shorter port stay of vessels, resulting in saving to our liner customers. We are now able to handle the next generation and larger gearless vessels.
“This investment will include the deployment of reefer racks having 600+ plugs, a new workshop, larger powerhouse and 20 Rubber Tyred Gantry (RTG) cranes. All of this will result in more efficient operations and shall enable customers to take delivery of their cargo much earlier,” he said.
Mirza said with the massive investment at the terminal, WACT has established itself as the largest and most efficient container terminal in East Nigeria. He said the company has created 2,950 direct and indirect job opportunities in the country.
“Our vision is to make WACT the gateway to East Nigeria and beyond. We believe this vision can be achieved much earlier if the government can support us by addressing some fundamental challenges like security risk because of piracy, clearance of overtime containers, improving roads and related infrastructure that connect Onne Port to the rest of Nigeria,” he said.
The Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), who was represented at the event by the Assistant Comptroller General in charge of Zone C, ACG Elton Edorhe, while reiterating the commitment of NCS to trade facilitation, said the deployment of the new Mobile Harbor Cranes and Reach Stackers by WACT would improve efficiency and aid quick release of cargo at the port, leading to increased revenue for the government.
He said, “Modern Customs is concerned about trade facilitation around the world. The deployment of these cranes will mean efficiency. More containers will be brought in and handled proficiently and that will increase revenue generation to the Federal Government coffers through Customs.
“Trade facilitation is a process that is all encompassing. It is not only for one organization. Every stakeholder must be involved. So, we are happy that WACT is doing their part by investing more and commissioning these new equipment.”
The Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, who was represented by the Port Manager of Onne Port, Dr. Abubakar Dantsoho, commended WACT for acquiring the new cranes, which he said would aid efficiency, improve productivity and ensure quick turnaround of vessels at the port.
Also speaking at the event, the General Manager Operations and Technical, Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA), Mr. Ajayi Adekunle, who lauded the management of WACT for the acquisition of the additional cargo handling equipment, said despite the setback caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to businesses, WACT has remained committed to the realization of the objectives of the free zone.
“In the last couple of years, WACT has demonstrated that our corporate objective of taking investments in the free zone to the next level is being achieved. The acquisition of these additional Mobile Harbor Cranes and Reach Stackers is remarkable given the serious setback that the coronavirus has brought to businesses in the free zone and the country.
“This commissioning ceremony represents an important private sector contribution to the effort of the government to diversify and strengthen the national economy through the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan,” Adekunle, who represented the Managing Director of OGFZA at the crane commissioning ceremony, said.
Several other stakeholders including the representatives of shipping companies, freight forwarders, community leaders in Onne and other government agencies, who attended the commissioning ceremony, were full of praises for WACT and its management team.
WACT, which started commercial operation in 2006, is the first Greenfield container terminal in Nigeria to be built under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model. Over the years, the company has grown to become the most efficient gateway to markets outside the Lagos area.