… Welcome first largest container vessel at Onne Port
Ben Eguzozie, in Port Harcourt
Operators of commercial shipping in Nigeria grouped under the Nigerian Shippers Association (NSA), say they welcome the successful berthing of one of the biggest gearless Maersk line vessels ever at the Federal Ocean Terminal (FOT), Onne Port complex, Rivers State. They said it will lead to increased maritime business in the area and the entire Eastern Ports of the country.
However, the shippers say more still needed to be done by the ports regulator, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to ease maritime hiccups, especially at the Eastern Ports. Some of these include: routine dredging of the ports channels, rehabilitation of facilities (port terminal buildings, access roads, navigational aids, among others).
Last month, Adawari Michael Pepple, chairman of Rivers–Bayelsa chapter of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) had said in an interview that there was urgent need for the federal government to rehabilitate the access roads to the ports in the east in order to reduce transportation costs to manufacturers in the south-south region.
The Eastern Ports include Port Harcourt Port (Area 1), the oldest built around 1913; Onne Port also called Oil & Gas Free Zone or Intels Port; the Federal Lighter Terminal (FLT) and Federal Ocean Terminal (FOT); Warri; Calabar Port and Onitsha River Port.
Ofon Udofia, president of Nigerian Shippers Association, Rivers–Bayelsa chapter told Business A.M. in an interview that the arrival of Maersk Stadelhorn vessel, with 9,971 TEUs capacity, 300-metre overall length, and 48-metre width at FOT, Onne on Saturday August 15, was good development for maritime operators in the Eastern Ports. He said such vessels were needed at the Eastern Ports to keep them busy.
He said the safe arrival of the vessel without any security challenges was an indication of improved security status of the Onne Port channel, and the maintenance of the channel depth to receive such large modern vessel. He hinted that other ports within the Eastern Ports were equally safe for maritime operations.
“It is important that I inform you that it takes a shorter distance for vessels to sail from the Far East (China, Singapore, South Korea, etc) directly into any of the Eastern Ports. So, it makes more economic sense for the NPA to keep the Eastern Ports active for increased maritime activities in Nigeria,” Udofia had told Business A.M in another interview recently.
A shipping expert told Business A.M. in Port Harcourt that it was pleasing to observe that the Onne Port after a period of lull, was beginning to take the lead again in ports operations and efficiency among the ports in the West African sub-region.
The Maersk Stadelhorn, a flagship from Singapore, with a total draught of 11.2 metres, called at FOT, Onne Port sailing from Cotonou, Benin Republic. The vessel was brought in from Fairway Bouy at Bonny by NPA’s three pilots, trained on pilotage of such vessel.
Klaos Holman Laursen, the country manager of AP Molleer, said, they were pleased that the vessel, the biggest container vessel to call in Nigerian ports, sailed successfully into Onne Port. He said the vessel has overall length of 300 metres, width 48 metres and draught of 11.2 metres. “It is the biggest ever container vessel to sail into any Nigerian port,” he said.
Onne Port, a once busy port, had earlier in July, received a Maersk flagged vessel, a gearless 4,800 24-feet TEU capacity, which sailed into the West African Container Terminal (WACT), Onne Port. The Calabar Port also recently received four Ecomarine vessels laden with premium motor spirit (petrol), said to be the first time since about 1990. All these were shortly after the federal government through the NPA approved the use of Eastern Ports by international vessels, instead of the crowded Lagos ports that have remained congested for a number of years now.
Barbara Ejemeh Nchey-Achukwu, head, corporate and strategic communications, Onne Port complex, in a statement said, the port manager, Alhasssan Ismaila Abubakar described the vessel’s arrival as a milestone attained by NPA. He expressed appreciation to the NPA managing director, Hadiza Bala-Usman for all the support and assistance given to Onne Port complex in making the arrival of the vessel possible.
Abubakar noted that, with this development, shippers in the Eastern zone and those in the Northern axis will have option to make choices of ports to use for their import-export activities. “Consumers in the Eastern and Northern axis (of the country) will benefit more as more vessels ply the Onne Port,” the port manager added.