By David Ejiohuo
There is high hope that the otherwise merit-bound sea ports in Port Harcourt will come a life again, as the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) takes serious security measures to safe guard them.
The Port Harcourt sea ports and that of Onne, all in Rivers state, have been paralyzed for years now following the deadly activities of sea pirates and what the authorities of the NPA described as bad boys.
Following their deadly activities, normal maritime and sea ports and commercial activities were brought to the very low level as ships and their captains avoided the deep sea ports for other safe ones in the country.
Because of the economic decline and job losses and the after math of it, the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) said it had decided to confront the security situation at the sea ports to restore sanity at the Eastern ports.
Speaking with our correspondent in an exclusive interview at the Port Harcourt International Airport Omagwa, the Executive Director of Finance and Administration of the NPA, Mr. Mohammed Bello Koko, said his organization was poised to making every effort to bring back the lost glory of the sea ports.
The NPA he disclosed, had concluded arrangements to procure two 17 meter security patrol boats and another set of six other patrol boats to monitor the security situation at the ports facilities.
According to him, the gun boats procurement process had been completed and contract awarded and that they will soon arrive the country.
Mr. Bello Koko did not disclose how much the gun boats would cost the NPA but explained that they would be constructed and manufactured according to specification before they would be delivered to the Eastern ports.
He pointed out that the essence of the patrol boats was for them to monitor security situations at the ports facilities and for quick response in case of crisis and emergency.
‘‘We are seeing an increasing decline in cargo traffic into the two ports and as long as the issue of security is not resolved, it would remain a problem’’.
The Executive Director also explained that apart from the deployment of the gun boats, that the NPA had had several interactions with the communities in the area and pleaded with them to understand that security was paramount, if there must be business in the ports. “We have made them to understand that security is essential for the development and improvement of the ports and life of the community people”.
The NPA, he promised, would collaborate with any organization or person that is legally involved in the security issues like the Navy and other security organizations to bring sanity to the ports.
The Navy has been awarding construction of armoured boats to indigenous manufacturers especially EPANOL in Port Harcourt. It is not clear why the NPA chose foreigners to build theirs.