Calabar Port Remains Idle With Shallow Sater Channel After 20billion Allocation
Calabar Port Remains Idle With Shallow Sater Channel After 20billion Allocation.
Expectations are high on the Federal Government , particularly the Nigerian Ports Authority ( NPA), to dredge the Calabar Port channel, to diversify available infrastructure and reduce excessive pressure from the ever-busy Lagos ports , while saving huge revenue losses. Dredging the channel has remained a challenge and an uphill task for successive administrations for decades.
Calabar Port , along with its peers in Port Harcourt, Warri, and Onne, are the gateway for sea trade in the South – Eastern Nigeria. The port is not only designed to serve the South -South and South – East regions, but also other neighbouring countries like Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
Draft at approach of the Calabar channel is 6.4 metres at high tide and 5.4 metres at low tide, whereas the concession agreement stipulated that the Federal Government will take the draft to 9.5 metres; and the Bureau on Public Enterprise ( BPE ) had assured that this would be achieved on start of business , but the situation remains the same since 2006 when the concession programme took effect.
Weighed down by shallow water channel, poor roads and others , the port has failed to meet stakeholders’ expectations in the maritime industry and the country at large .
Recall that about $56 million contract for the dredging of Calabar Port Channel was awarded in 2006 , but it remained uncompleted. The Federal Government awarded another contract in November 2014, for N20 billion to complete the project. The contract, which was signed by the NPA, the Bureau of Public Enterprise ( BPE) and the Calabar Channel Management, was for the port to be dredged up to 9. 8 metres , but it also hit the brick wall.
Worried by the controversies surrounding the dredging contract, the Managing Director , NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman had said : “The critical issue about Calabar Port has to do with the dredging of the channel ; the draft needs to be deeper to ensure we attract more vessels . We need to jointly work to bring commercial activities into the state. We have discussed with the state government.” But two years after, terminal operators continue to decry the low pace business at the seaport occasioned by its shallow water level. Although, NPA had advised that flat bottom vessels could sail smoothly into the port , but operators said this is not the best solution for a nation that seeks to be competitive.
A director in one of the Terminals, who pleaded anonymity said : “Nothing new has happed on the channel. It is really vey annoying because government seems to have abandoned the Calabar Port , as they appear to concentrate only on the Lagos Ports . Lagos Port Complex is currently challenged by the poor access roads , where other ports such as Calabar can provide relief, but it is rather unfortunate that our government is not looking that way.
“The NPA claimed to have started a survey about four months ago; how long does it take to do bathometric survey? It does not take that long. That is another problem on its own because if you have done bathometric survey, and you did not carry out the project, filtration would change the whole thing as time goes by . So by the time you are ready to embark on the project, you will need to do another survey.
According to him, Nigeria has lost huge trade cargoes to Benin, Togo, and other neighbouring countries due to poor shipping connectivity and shallow draft of the port channels with attendant loss of revenue. With regard to making use of flat bottom vessels to navigate the channel as suggested by NPA, John Obasi, a port operator, argued that this would just be palliative , and cannot make Nigerian ports to be competitive.