By DAPO OLAWUNI
Mr Temisan Omatseye, former Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has urged the Federal Government to appreciate the value of riverine transportation in Nigeria.
He called on the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) entering into a Joint Venture (JV) with the Barge Operators Association of Nigeria (BOAN) to ensure that cargoes are moved by waterways.
Omatseye made the appeal at the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) breakfast meeting with the theme, ‘Rehabilitation of Tin Can Island Port: Proffering Workable Solutions’.
According to Omatseye, when riverine transportation is utilised, employment opportunities are created and spread well to other parts of the country.
“How this will work, a modern vessel can still come to Tincan Island and discharge. The cargo can still be cleared by customs, thereafter, the barge operators and shipowners begin to feed other ports in the hinterland.
“ I believe strongly that no terminal operator should be allowed to operate in Lagos except they have a water front and let everybody to move to Epe or Ikorodu.
“Epe has good road access, and I don’t know why we cannot go to ijebu waterside and build a terminal and get Ondo state government to do dual carriage to Ore so that they don’t need to come to Lagos.
“Lagos will not lose money but what will happen is that ones the cargo moves there, all the truck owners will run over there. And the aim is for us to save Apapa, the economy of Lagos,” he said.
He noted that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) was losing money because cargoes now move to other ports due to inefficiency not at their own doing but because people experience delay in the discharge of cargo.
“Shipping is very dynamic and so NPA should step into the realm of business if the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency cannot do it through their Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund.
“NPA has the power to do a joint venture with barge operators and bring first class equipment.There is need to get smaller feeder vessels that can do 5.9 meter draft into places like Warri, Koko and Ugala to push cargo to places like Calabar and other areas, it is negotiable.
“If we look at the cost of moving trailer from Lagos to Onitsha, it cannot be as far much as moving by water to port in Warri,” he said.
He pointed out that presently, the Tincan Island had become a total mess and disaster, reason being that the country was dependent on a single port.
He added that the infrastructure in Lagos state was at the state of collapse but at no fault of the port because everybody wanted to come to Lagos.
“Why is everybody coming to Lagos port, because everybody considers five degree East as being unsafe. So anyone that goes five degree East from the port right now gets what we call War Risk Premium .
“Most of the vessels are not interested in going there and that is why everybody is coming to Tincan or Apapa port and now they are looking at Lekki Deep Seaport.
“And we are basically transferring the problem of Apapa to Lekki. Really and truly we need to find the solutions, we are Nigerians and we cannot imagine the impact the degredation of the port roads is costing us.
“When a truck is going to pick up a container, it will charge demurrage and the cost of the demurrage will be added to the cost of goods. And so we should ensure that the ports infrastructure are in good condition,” he said.
While corroborating Omatseye’s views on barging as alternative for cargo evacuation, the President of Barge Operations Association of Nigeria (BOAN), Hon. Olubunmi Olumekun however asserted that the N50million bank guarantee for licensing barge operators by NPA poses a huge challenge.
Olumekun equally lamented that barge operators pay charges to NPA in dollars whereas they receive their income in naira.