Infrastructure, port efficiency are at the top of reforms transformation which the Nigerian port industry has been witnessing in recent times.
The reform trend, which started in 2006 after the federal government concessioned the cargo handling operations of the port to private terminal operators, has since been consolidated on, such that the port is currently recording improved efficient service delivery to port users.
The reform has also resulted to Nigerian port being rated the third biggest and most efficient port in Africa after the Port of Algiers and Dubai in South Africa. This is no doubt owing to the improved vessel turnaround time, cargo dwell time, security of ships at berth and safety of the channel, which has been trailing the port lately. In the last two years, the Habib Abdullahi-led management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has embarked on programs designed to improve efficient port operations in line with its mandate and the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Speaking at an event held in Lagos recently to mark the two years stewardship of the present NPA management, Abdullahi, who noted the need for rehabilitation and modernisation of port infrastructure, stated that the authority has through several channels invested into creating a user friendly port in the following areas:
Marine and operations
NPA has continued to pay attention to improving existing port infrastructures in the areas of rehabilitation of terminal quay walls and aprons; deepening of water channels; upgrading of common user facilities and removal of wrecks from the channel. This is why WAFMAX vessel with a length of 232.33 metres and capacity of 4,500 TEUS requiring draught of 13.5 meters started visiting the Tin-Can Island (TICP) and Onne ports after it first called in Apapa port years back.
Statistics has shown that most of the ports recorded increased Gross Registered Tonnage (GRT) of vessels mainly due to the capital and maintenance dredging of the channels by Joint Venture (JV) companies, namely the Lagos Channel Management (LCM) Company and the Bonny Channel management (BCC). These strategic developments have reflected in increased cargo throughput to 77 million metric tons in 2013 from 44,953,073 MT in 2005 excluding crude oil and gas.
Provision of towage services
In order to provide efficient towage service, the NPA boss disclosed that the federal government has approved the outsourcing of towage services in Port Harcourt, Onne, Warri, and Calabar ports. This, he assured will result to removal of delays in ship movement in and out of the ports.
Development of deep seaports
As part of its efforts to reduce congestion in the existing port facilities, the federal government approved the development of deep seaports in Lekki under a Public Private Partnership arrangement. Other similar projects would be developed in Ibaka, Akwa Ibom state, Olokola in Ondo and Ogun states, Badagry in Lagos state.
Port infrastructural development
According to Abdullahi, the authority has continued to make strides in improving existing port infrastructures in the areas of rehabilitation works such that NPA has seen to the completion of East and West moles as well as the upgrading and renovation of common user facilities in the ports. The completion of phase 4 and approval received for the commencement of the development of port facilities phase 4B at Onne Port Complex are also part of the efforts. In pursuance of the development of the ports to meet international standards in service delivery, according to him, the management has continued to pursue major capital projects in all the port locations. They include completion of the construction of 1.6km road at Lagos Port Complex (LPC); reconstruction of terminals B &C at old Warri Port; rehabilitation of rail track at LPC; continuous rehabilitation of TCIP quay wall and apron.
Others include: completion of Island berth on Lagos Channel by Oando and completion of Eko Support Services at Bullnose, Apapa.
To further encourage private participation in port development, the NPA boss revealed that technical approvals were granted to Digisteel Limited and MRS Oil & Gas to expand their services at Ogogoro and TCIP respectively.
“We have also granted approval to Niger Dock for development of additional berth to its existing one at Snake Island while we are processing a number of applications from prospective investors such as PTML and GDNL for further developmental projects,” he explained.
He added that NPA is intensifying effort in the final production of a national port master plan in order to accommodate the rapid expansion and development in the port.
Industry close watchers have confirmed that the channel management and conservancy function of the Authority has continued to improve in the recent time.