Eromosele Abiodun

In a bid to reduce security risk and the cost of attracting ships to Nigeria, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has commenced moves to get the owners of rigs, abandoned and submerged vessels to remove them immediately or face the penalty.

To this end, the NPA will issue notices and write to mariners, owners of abandoned or submerged vessels and rigs to come and remove them.

The Managing Director of the NPA, Hadiza Bala-Usman, who disclosed this at a Port Stakeholders’ meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State said the NPA has not removed them because it wanted to avoid people making all manners of claims as a result.

According to her, “We don’t want to do it our self because when we do so you get all manner of claims, we want to make sure we follow due process and thereafter do the needful. We have a whole lot to remove some of them are defacing our water fronts, making it unattractive and pose security risk.”

She added: “The owners find it no longer profitable to remove them and convert them to other uses but when we fully develop our plan for insurance for vessels that come in and go out of Nigeria or make use of our port, jetties and waterways this situation will change. This has also fueled the amount importers pay to bring vessels into the country as insurers demand that they pay war zone insurance fee which is very difficult and unattractive. “
Bala-Usman, who was represented by the NPA Executive Director, Marine and Operations Mr Sokonte Davies said that the NPA is keen on making sure that Nigerian ports are attractive for business.

“There are countries who don’t have the resource that we have but only have water and makes huge amount of money from it. We want to also introduce bunkering, not the illegal one you hear about, what we want to do is bunkering in the real sense. The NPA wants to go into regulation proper and leave other activity for operators because we cannot be regulators and competitor, “she said.

Reacting to a stakeholder’s comment that the Lagos ports were congested, she explained that it is rather the access roads that are in bad shape, for which the government is already assiduously working to fix them.

She equally noted that most of the importers/exporters that used the Lagos ports were from South-West; stressing that the Authority would soon procure six gun boats to tackle security challenges on the waterways.
Speaking further, the NPA boss observed that the agency had eased up the system of doing business before the executive order was issued, noting that the policy had paid off handsomely.

She said the authority did not charge money for services it did not render to importers and exporters.
She said that it would be difficult for all inspecting agents to inspect a vessel at the same time, adding that the exercise could only be done in turns.

she promised to address users’ complaints constitutionally and hinted that the meeting would hold quarterly to enhance harmonious relationship between NPA and stakeholders.

The shipping companies/agents had complained of lack of pilot cutters; inadequate security, poor light as well as shallow Bonny channel which needed dredging.

According to stakeholders, big vessels are diverted to other pots due to the shallowness of Bonny Channel, among others.

The Managing Director held a similar meeting on Monday with stakeholders in Onne Ports.
“It decisions of this present management that this stakeholders’ forum will hold every quarter. Next quarter of 2018 will be the next stakeholders’ forum, but that does not mean that we will wait until then before we respond to your enquiries. We inherited a relationship that was very sour with mutual suspicion. But this management has realized that when our clients are happy they will do more and revenue will improve.

“That also applies to the NPA, if the organisation is happy with stakeholders that translate to better services. We believe that it is a win-win situation. We are doing everything possible to eliminate bottlenecks and also not be seen as only after revenue without services been rendered. This government wants to ensure that things are done differently and ensure practices that set the maritime sector backwards in the past are set aside, “she said.