Onitsha River Ports Concessionare Battles 40% Bank Interest Rate on Barges, Tugs

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Onitsha River Port

By DAPO OLAWUNI

Concessionare of the Onitsha River Ports, Universal Elison has raised an alarm over unfriendly interest rates being slammed by banks on acquisition of ocean going barges and tug boats, even as it called on the Federal government for the distribution of the Cabotage Vessels Financing Fund (CVFF)

Speaking at a stakeholders meeting with the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy in Lagos last week, representative of the Concessionare, Mrs Bernadine Eloka said the operators are facing funding challenges and that banks were requesting 40% interest rate annually.

Eloka who is also the Chief Executive Officer of Clarion Bonded Terminal, lamented the bottlenecks in getting barge registration and licenses by the government agencies; Nigerian Ports Authority (NIWA) and National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) adding that the process is fraught with bureaucracy and frustrations.

“We just finished building another ocean going barge and tug boat that we want to use to commence the Onne, Calabar and Port Harcourt operations.

“Some of the issues we want the ministry to help in facilitating and make our operations seamless and cost effective is the issue of obtaining registration and licenses.

“We know that we cannot operate our barges without them being registered and licenses, but it has been very difficult, time consuming and frustrating procedures and processes.

“Another challenge is funding, the Barge that is being funded now by one of our banks is at interest of 40% interest rate per annum. We began negotiations and we brought it down to 30% interest.

“The CVFF is yet to be distributed and I believe we should be one of the beneficiaries of that fund.

“We operate bonded terminals which involves movement of containers from Lagos, Port Harcourt, Onne, down to Onitsha.

“I am representing the concessionare of Onitsha River Ports; the Universal Elison, we move an average of 500 containers in a month from Lagos, Port Harcourt and Onne, and we do this journey by road.

“We want the government to open up the dredging from Lagos to Onitsha and from Port Harcourt to Onitsha before the end of the year.

“We are mapping out strategies for the dredging but it cannot be done without support of the Federal Government” Mrs Eloka stated

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