Ben Eguzozie, in Port Harcourt
Calabar Port, one of the seven that make up the much-idled Eastern Ports, came alive for the first time in over 30 years in export of goods. The port sent out its first consignment of 7,000 metric tonnes of cocoa to the U.S.
The Eastern Ports are: Port Harcourt Port (Area 1), built around 1913; Onne Port also called the Oil & Gas Free Zone or Intels Port; Federal Lighter Terminal (FLT) and its offshore component – Federal Ocean Terminal (FOT); Warri Port; Calabar Port and Onitsha River Port.
For several years, these ports have seen typically little or no cargo throughput due to federal government’s poor ports policy, which approves all imports, including petroleum products to be channelled through the Lagos ports. Today, the south-west ports have become sorely congested, spilling into all precincts including Apapa.
Early last year, reports said the Muhammadu Buhari administration made a policy reversal, which necessitated the deployment of services to the Eastern Ports. The effects have been cargo and vessel usage of the region’s ports – Port Harcourt to Calabar.
The export was handled from the Ecomarine Terminals. The same Ecomarine in April last year, brought in four ship load of premium motor spirit (PMS) to Calabar, the first time the port was receiving such since 1990.
The load-out of the cocoa beans by Starlink Global & Ideal Ltd, which chose to convey its cargo through the Calabar Port, is seen as value addition to the port, Ecomarine terminal, and the state, to have a vessel departing to the USA.
Adeyemi Adeniji, the managing director of Starlink Global & Ideal Ltd, the shipping company conveying the goods, said the cocoa beans were sourced from Ikom Local Government Area of Cross River, which he said constituted a factor in utilizing the Calabar Port.
Adeniji described the shipping of non-oil products from Calabar Seaport to the U.S as eventful, explaining that: “in our search for a solution to different dimensional problems facing export in Nigeria, we opened a direct export from Calabar to the United States of America, using a chartered vessel.”
Governor Ben Ayade rather urged the federal government to implement the agreement it reached with the concessionaires on dredging of the Calabar Port. The last time the port saw any form of major dredging, aside its supposedly routine dredging, was in 2005-2006. The Port’s 87-km channel inlet from Fairway Buoy requires regular dredging to make it suitable for modern vessels with higher draughts to berth at the port.
“Calabar Port is very strategic to the economic empowerment of Nigeria in view of the employment opportunities here. All we are appealing for now, is for the Federal Government to expedite the dredging of the Calabar channel to really kick-start economic activities,” Governor Ayade, who was represented by Rosemary Archibong, commissioner for commerce and industry, said at the load-out ceremony.
On her part, Hadiza Bala Usman, the managing director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), described the development as a sign of better things for the nation. She urged other shippers to copy the example of Starlink Global & Ideal.
Usman, who was represented by the Calabar Port manager, NPA Calabar, Marie Asan, said, the NPA was pursuing federal government’s economic recovery agenda through consistent improvement on service delivery at the nation’s seaports, especially the Eastern Ports.
She said Calabar Port was up and doing in its revenue generation, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, an indication of service improvement. “The executive management of NPA is pleased by this development, as it shows that the strategic measures put in place to make all the nation’s seaports viable and vibrant are beginning to produce positive outcome,” Usman said.
According to the NPA boss, the management had introduced an inclusive governance system which had brought modest milestones to Calabar Port in the areas of wreck removals, stimulation of container traffic, attraction of flat-bottom vessel traffic, restoration of broken-down crafts and more.”