Investors name enemies of port operations in eastern ports


· Pirates attacks at sea, polluted waters, non-streamlined inspects cause more tears

· Shippers spend $4,000 to clean a ship each time it calls the PH ports due to oily waters

· Sad tale from Onne Port as agents abandon 1500 containers

By Sam Esogwa

Different stakeholders have exposed drawbacks in eastern ports that make shipping to them very horrible, the most painful to them being non-streamlined inspections by various agencies. They also said port workers do not come early enough to start operation; all adding to delays and poor turn around time at eastern ports.

The Nigern Ports Authority (NPA) organised a session on Monday, September 39, in The Dome Event Centre on Peter Odili Road in Port Harcourt to get the true picture of eastern ports and know the way forward.

Most investors said the inspecting agencies do not have any scheduled, barging into vessels at same time instead of creating a schedule. They also mentioned insecurity especially pirate attacks of vessels entering the ports in Port Harcourt and pollution. They said a vessel spends extra $4000 to clean up a vessel each time it calls at a port in PH due to oil on waters that deface the body against international regulations on how a ship should look like. Dented ships are not allowed into other countries, they lamented.

Speaking during the interactive session, the investors mentioned insecurity, pollution, non-streamlined inspection, delay in clearing vessels and late resumption of workers to work as some of the challenges making their operations difficult at the two ports.

Aho have his name simply as Mr Pius, whose company operates at Onne Port, said that the major challenge they have at Onne Port is insecurity. “It is we who are wearing the shoe that know where it is pinching us. The problem we have in the Eastern Port is insecurity”.

He went ahead to decry a situation where a vessel and its crew are hijacked by pirates on the waterways, thereby rendering the investors’ resources and efforts worthless and appealed to the NPA and the FG to beef up security on waterways. He also listed pollution as another major bottleneck impeding their smooth operations at the ports.

According to him, ships, most of the time, get dented before they berth because of pollution, resulting in their colours being covered, which makes it difficult for them to move to another country without being cleaned.

He said to clean up a ship they usually spend about four thousand dollars ($4,000), which amounts to extra cost for them as investors.

Another operator, who also bared his mind to the NPA boss over the problems being encountered by investors at the Port Harcourt ports, pointed out that the turn-around of the vessels is taking too much time to achieve.

He said rather than four hours, it takes 16 hours to inspect and clear a vessel due to the non-streamlining of inspection activities by the security agencies.

He said in most cases, the Nigeria Customs Service, the Department of Security Service (DSS) and the Nigeria Immigration Service operatives inspect vessels almost at the same time, thus making the entire process cumbersome, confusing, burdensome and time-consuming, noting that the captains, at the end of the day, get tired and angry.

The Port Harcourt Port operator further complained that workers resume work as late as 9am o 10 am, whereas in most cases, operations are supposed to commence as early as 7am. so that the vessels can move at record time, in line with their schedules.

He added that efforts to correct this anomaly have always been met with stiff opposition from the Labour union at the port which insist that they cannot be controlled. He appealed to the Managing Director of NPA, Hadisa Bala Usman, to help check these ills.

Earlier, the port manager, Onne Port, Alhasan Ismaila, complained that some agents abandon their containers at the port, adding that about 1500 containers are yet to be cleared, thus blocking the space for new containers to arrive. This in turn robs FG of more revenue.

According to Ismaila, it now takes 19 days to clear goods, instead of the 48-hour deadline given by the federal government. He also revealed that out of the 2,500 hectares of land at Onne Port, only 30 per cent or 750 hectares are occupied while the remaining 70 per cent or 1,750 hectares are vacant.

The Onne Port Manager appealed to investors to come and invest in the Notore Quay which he said has only one jetty.

His Rivers Port Complex Manager, Yunusa Ibrahim, complained that the depth of the sea is not deep enough for big vessels to berth there while appealing for a more efficient operational system.

Responding to all the reports, the MD of NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, promised to liaise with all major stakeholders including the Customs Service, DSS, Immigration, NIMASA, and the Ministry of Transportation to tackle all the problems bedeviling the ports.