Stakeholders Hail INTELS Strides in Onne Port

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John Iwori
Stakeholders in the maritime industry have hailed Integrated Logistics Services Nigeria Limited (INTELS) on the strides it has made since it started operations in the nation’s seaports.

The firm which is one of the concessionaires in the nation’s seaports won the bid for the concession following the conclusion of the port reforms initiated by the Federal Government during Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.

The exercise, which was supervised by the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) divested the management of Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) from day-to-day running of the terminals as well as cargo handling.

Apparently impressed by the achievements of INTELS since it took over the running of Onne, Calabar and Warri ports, the stakeholders in a recent visit to the operational base of the firm said the terminal operator need to be encouraged to do more.
In a chat with THISDAY, the Managing Director of the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority (OGFZA), Hon. Victor Alabo expressed delight in the manner the concessionaire has added value to its operations in the port.

Alabo stated that the terminal operator has relentlessly deploying huge investments expanding and upgrading facilities to what he called ‘world-class standards’, making it the leading energy logistics services provider and concessionaire at the Onne Port Complex, Rivers State.

According to him, the concessionaire has transformed the Onne Free Zone into an investors’ paradise, attracting, to date, foreign direct investments (FDIs) of over 60 billion United States of America (USA) dollars to the free zone. The other zones are not as successful as this and investment portfolio there is about $12 to $15 billion.

His words: “INTELS is the biggest player in this free zone, and as an investor in free zones, they have confidence in Nigeria’s economy. So, they have done massive investments within the free zone. For instance, they are into port development. Initially, the port here had only about seven to nine metres draught, but they have gone to nine to 12 metres draught.

“It is a public private partnership between Intels and (Federal) Ministry of Transport. So, whatever the size of the cargo, it arrives at the port here because the draught have been developed. And if you don’t have faith in the economy of this country, you cannot invest much, because only the port, the last phase of port investment, is about $3.5 billion. So, that is what we expect of others.”

He stated that the local content compliance was high as most companies have Local Content Desk, which will ensure that they comply with the Local Content Act.
He revealed that his organisation goes round to ensure that they complied even as he pointed out that there are some companies that have gone up to 100 per cent in their compliance with the provisions of the Act.
He disclosed that on a daily basis, the zone has over 30,000 people working directly and indirectly in the various companies operating in the zone.

According to him, “the free zone is adjudged as the most developed or successful free zone the world over that is dedicated to oil and gas. It is because of the consistence of government policies and also the ingenuity that we have brought into management of free zones.

Giving an insight into its strides, he explained that there was a culture of regular stakeholder meetings with investors to address their challenges, providing a feedback mechanism to deliberate jointly on whatever the challenges are how resolve these, such that there is a win-win situation.

His words: “You know, government has provided lots of incentives; some are physical incentives, some are tax incentives, and these have attracted the investors into the free zone. Government also ensures that they are consistent with these incentives. If there are policy somersault, the investors lose confidence in bringing in their funds into the investment.

“As long as this confidence is established, it attracts many other investors coming into the zone. That is why in this zone, we have close to 200 investors, several, falling into the maritime sector, the light manufacture sector and the downstream sector of the oil and gas, and we will say it is a success story and we hope to replicate this success story in other parts of the country”.