By Samson Echenim
The operator of ECM Terminals in Calabar Port has received the first vessel calling at the terminal 13 years after the port was concessioned to the company.
The vessel, MV Boreas berthed at the terminal nearly one year after the port operator went into talks with the ship owner, Marguisa Shipping Line for business.
The 116-metre vessel with gross tonnage of 6569 and net tonnage of 2874, built in 2007, which works for Spain-based Marguisa, came with both laden and empty containers and securely anchored at ECM Terminals at about 13.27 hrs on September 23, said Diran Akorede, general manager of ECM Terminals.
The port has suffered patronage of container liners due to draft limitations on the channel. Currently Calabar channel has a draft of 6.4 meters at high tide, but requires Nigeria Ports Authority to complete the dredging to the advertised draft of 9.4 meters to attract regular and bigger tonnage.
But the berthing of the MV Boreas in Calabar signifies a milestone achieved through the strategic marketing of Ecomarine Terminals Limited, a terminal concessionaire in Calabar port.
“The berthing of the container vessel at our facility was the crowning moment of the several marketing efforts to attract a liner service to Calabar over the years. In October last year, we had preliminary discussion with Marguisa representative on possibility of commencing calls to Calabar. To make the call viable to Marguisa, we made several concessions on rates and co-opted other stakeholders into the efforts; followed with road shows to sensitize potential clients. The maiden call of the vessel was the outcome of such efforts spearheaded by Ecomarine in conjunction with Marguisa,” Akorede stated weekend.
Akorede said, in preparation for receipt of container vessel, the terminal has invested massively on container handling equipment from inception of the concession, most of which have been idle ever since.
“We are ISO certified and have well documented processes to ensure transparency and efficiency in our service delivery. Our systems are fully automated and the facility is fully ISPS compliant.
“We also have paved stacking area that has remained unutilised over the years. For us, we have been prepared from the inception and, therefore, handled the discharge operations in the best professional manner.
“As a port, our pact with Marguisa is to provide and ensure efficient service delivery, quick turnaround for their vessel and incentive scheme to support their voyage profitability. For us, the pact remains as long as the vessel continues to call our terminal,” he stated.
Akorede said ECM Terminal is ready to receive more container vessels with its ultra-modern cargo handling equipment.
Calabar Port has been plagued by the challenge of low draft due to the failure of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to dredge the channel to the advertised draft of 9.4m and since shipping has evolved to bigger tonnages requiring deeper draft, the port has been seriously constrained.
The ECM manager therefore urged NPA to urgently complete the dredging of the channel to the advertised draft of 9.4m to ease the difficulty in attracting container vessel to the terminal.
He also enjoined the ports authority to introduce a more effective incentive scheme such as the 30 per cent rebate hitherto in place before the concession.
To further facilitate patronage and easy evacuation of cargoes, he said the government should ensure quick completion of the road contract from Odukpani Junction through Ikot Ekpene to Aba, already awarded to Julius Berger.
However, he acknowledged the purposeful partnership the company has enjoyed with NPA over the years, especially the commitment of Hadiza Bala Usman, managing director of NPA, whom he said from inception of her tenure had given priority attention to resolving some of the key challenges that have bedevilled the port, while emphasising the need for her to ensure the completion of the dredging.