Eastern Ports Challenges: The Bello-Koko Repositioning Blueprint
BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko, Thursday last week said management is considering a new incentive package and increased tariff relief to encourage port players including terminal operators in the Eastern ports.
Making this disclosure during a two-day on-the-spot assessment facility tour of the eastern axis, Bello-Koko said part of the multi-faceted approach will be to increase cargo vessel call by raising the hitherto 10percent tariff rebate by an additional 20percent; making it a 30percent bumper offer.
He expressed the hope that this latest administrative cost restructuring will not only lead to a rebound in activities for ports in the geo-political area but also greatly serve as an attractive booster for players operating within and around the ports; a blueprint he says is consistent with the economic agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government.
An objective weighing and examination of the latest proposal encapsulate strategies at getting the eastern ports to function optimally, and also to put it on the same pedestal with the Western ports. Without any gainsaying, this the management doing by looking at the whole gamut of challenges in the nation’s ports, from security issues to infrastructure decay, draught and channel issues, to siltation and breakwaters, especially in the Eastern ports.
A statement by NPA General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, Nasiru Ibrahim, quoted the authority helmsman as saying that the proposed blueprint is in view of an earlier one with a 10percent offer granted to terminal operators some years back, but which failed to achieve the desired objectives.
The NPA blueprint has continued to excite industry stakeholders and observers, who think that the current management is upward looking and have continued to demonstrate rare commitment not only in raising the nation’s ports growth trajectory but more importantly in ensuring that the challenges that have assailed full potential capacity of the eastern ports are purposefully addressed.
It is believed that the authority’s decision is largely in line with stakeholders yearning that NPA should offer a much more attractive incentive package capable of stimulating the right response that will make the Eastern ports competitive and running.
Speaking during stakeholders engagements in Port Harcourt during the assessment tour, Bello-Koko said management is looking at the operators request for tariff rebate, amongst other considerations.
“We are reviewing their request for a 30 percent rebate but we need to understand that we don’t just give a rebate without some conditions.
“We’ll seat down with them, those discussions have started, we’ll give them the conditions based on the tariff relief. It might be lower or higher than 30 percent.”
The NPA boss also announce management’s plan to begin the reconstruction of some of the broken down dock yard.
“We also came to look at the dockyard. The dockyard is necessary and an important part of the port where you dock and service vessels, but you can see it is dilapidated. We are thinking on what to do either to find private investors to invest in the dockyard or the NPA to take up that responsibility, to repair the finger jetty and get the berth to work.
“So we have come to the Eastern ports because we are very serious about the need to increase vessel and cargo traffic. That way, we would be able to de-congest the ports in Lagos.
“On the need to attract importers to the Eastern ports, we have said this so many times, the decision where the cargo will be delivered and evacuated is that of the consignee. The consignee decides the port of discharge for his cargo.
“We are doing all we can to encourage them to bring in their cargo to the Eastern ports. We are working on probably to review the tariffs, properly to give them tariff relief that will trickle down to the importers that will encourage them to bring in their cargo to the Eastern ports.”
Management he said is also looking at the prospect of undertaking further dredging of some of the channels in other to provide a holistic enabling structural environment to fully rejuvenate the axis’ cargo port calls.
“Most of the ports in the East, their problem is the draught of the channel and that is what we are looking at. It is not just to reconstruct the quays, we also need to dredge deeper so that bigger vessels can come in and the economy of scale will set in; and then you will be able to bring in those vessels to berth. We are beginning to see increased activities in Onne and we are happy.”
He explained that the cost analysis of the proposed projects is still been computed as the projects survey are ongoing and yet to be concluded.
“I can’t give you figures on the cost implications of these reconstruction works to NPA. We have interim surveys that are being carried out. We know the channels are very long so we need to determine what draught of the channel we need to achieve.
“The entrance is about 9.5 meters, there are places that are over 12, 14 meters and in some locations, they are about 9.5 meters. We are going to look at the survey plans of the channels and then determine what is the achievable draught, and start working on the dredging.”
Perhaps what makes this leadership especially open, interested, committed and focused is Bello-Koko’s background as a consequential insider ahead of his appointment. His industry outlook and determination to reposition the nation’s port economy is undoubtedly a refreshing and re-assuring signal by this government to make a difference.
Speaking of a round peg in a round hole, Bello-Koko’s cognate background in the private sector no doubt provided an additional impetus, as he juxtaposes the financial administration of the going changes to the projected economy of scale, plus the prospects of increased service delivery and potential for retaining the regional hub status; as part of the multiplier effects for an efficient, going national economy.
It is noteworthy that while this is one repositioning that has all the dynamics to successful implementation, the joining of force by the new Minister of Transportation, Engr. Sambo perhaps, succinctly explain the renewed traction and momentum to kill identified drawbacks promoting congestions at the Lagos ports; and leveraging on the capacity potential of the Eastern ports to full advantage.
Scoffers may hold aloof, but from all indication, this NPA leadership is working tirelessly to make the Eastern ports work; with an unsoiled vision to aggregate into the national coffers and a growing economic index, made possible the overall ports capacity optimization.
The development of the economic pillars of nation’s wealth and their political and diplomatic sagacity is what this leadership and management, and by extension the supervising ministry are executing; taking the right, bold and audacious decisions.
There is also great expectation that this will trickle down the entire operational system of the authority.