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Experts weigh challenges of Badagry deep seaport, list solutions

Leading experts and stakeholders in shipping and maritime development have reviewed the chances of survival and sustainability of the emerging Badagry deep seaport; saying much planning and sustainability tests are needed.

These were part of the resolutions taken at the just concluded All Maritime Journalists Summit, held in Topo, Badagry by the Association of Maritime Journalists’ of Nigeria (AMJON).

In a communiqué issued at the end of the three day conference, it was made clear that “Choice of Badagry for the event was as a result of the ancient town’s status as an emerging hub for oil and maritime activities in Nigeria”.

“It was the organisers intent to help participants appreciate the location of Badagry town as an ancient port city for shipment of slaves since 1440AD.

History of this ancient maritime activity resonates again as the Gberefu Beach Town that served as the slave port is the same place the proposed deep sea port is to be located owing to its ease of navigability and ability to accommodate bigger vessels.

Experts agreed that “The planned Lagos light rail along the Badagry Expressway has not convinced stakeholders of a link with the proposed port that can reduce pressure on road infrastructure and sustain existing free flow of traffic in the town as the rail scheme will not be extended to the port”.

“There is a disconnect between the Federal Government, Lagos State Government and the private sector investors for the port project on one hand and the Host Community of Gberefu Beach, where the port is to be sited on the other hand .

“Very little or nothing is being said and done about the attendant environmental degradation and possible health hazards.

Participants observed that the ancient town of Badagry is on the path to rapid modernisation, attracting ancillary investments and millions of job opportunities for her youths with great returns for investors.

Also, it was confirmed that tourism potentials of the Badagry town will further expand with influx of more Nigerians and foreigners to be attracted by the emerging maritime and oil & gas infrastructure to be sited in the town.

The communiqué also noted that the very much delayed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) whose passage has suffered copious setbacks from the days of former President Umaru Yar’Adua’s administration will impact on the oil activities if passed into law.

“There seems to be very little information about the capacity of the proposed Badagry Port to compete with ports of smaller neighbour countries like Togo which holds a capacity to accommodate E Class ships in drafts of about 16meters carrying 8000 to 19,000 TEUs(Twenty foot Equivalent Unit).

“Should the Badagry Port be less in capacity, it won’t add much value as mega (millennium) vessels will not berth there and Nigeria would continue to depend on the Cameroon Deep Seaport, Togo Port and the Port of Tema in Ghana presently undergoing expansion.

These expanding ports in smaller countries are obviously being prepared mainly for Nigeria bound cargoes.

“It is feared that ports approaches (access roads in Onne and Apapa ports) that have suffered some degree of neglect and allowed to be in a state of dilapidation despite the huge revenue government makes from them may recur in Badagry.

There is an acute dearth of maritime and oil & gas professionals among indigent residents who are wishing to take advantage of opportunities and openings to be created by the emerging port and ongoing oil exploration.

“Commercial Regulator status of Nigeria Shippers Council (NSC) which is an executive directive is in dire need of legislative support through an Act of the National Assembly to put a stop to the resistance by the body of concessionaires. Pending legislative instruments like the Act Establishing the National Transport Commission requires urgent consideration by the NASS for a better regulated port industry that will be fair to port operators and users.

The stakeholders in their recommendation agreed that “All stakeholders in the Badagry Port project need to meet and be more open in transactions to immediately commence work on the project. This is to forestall a situation where development of the proposed port will remain in the realm of projection for over a decade like the Ibaka Deep Seaport in Akwa Ibom State that is yet to commence more than ten years after it was conceptualised.

“The Federal Government should declare an emergency to ensure that all Nigerian bound cargoes are shipped into the country through Nigerian ports. This move will not only attract thousands of investment, it will also provide millions of direct and indirect jobs for unemployed Nigerians.

Experts also agreed that “Companies involved in Greenfield Port Development projects should establish cordial interface with members of their host communities and pursue amicable relationship to avoid litigation and other forms of schisms that may threaten investments and security.

“Government should build confidence in the host communities of the seaports by avoiding a situation where they suffer neglect and infrastructural and environmental decay for having money spinning government infrastructure in their domain.

“The Lagos State Government should as a matter of urgency establish special scholarship scheme for Badagry and Lagos indigenes to acquire knowledge and skills in maritime and oil related disciplines at the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron and other approved maritime training institutions.

“Government should attach more importance to maritime training in the country. Beyond spending so much to send some youths abroad, it should show determination to procure a training ship for the Maritime Academy of Nigeria to avoid making the entire training undertaken by youths at the academy a waste without the mandatory 12 to 18 months sea time experience.

“There is the need for intra government synergy among agencies of government to work together despite their inter ministerial divides to fully maximize the benefits of the emerging port and oil & gas infrastructure.

Government agencies like NIMASA, NPA, OGFZA,NEPC, NSC,NRC and NCMDB should have common operational template for harmony to attract better gains in import, export, oil, maritime and general transport sectors

“Government and all stakeholders should ensure and avoid compromising on basic Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in all areas where constructions and explorations are to take place

The conferees also advised the government and core investors to include inter-modal transport nexus where all future ports development projects are linked to rail lines. The Nigerian Ports Authority’s   25 years port development plan should include linkage with rail lines. This is to forestall traffic problems associated with haulage of cargo by road only causing trucks and tanker vehicles to compete with smaller cars and commercial buses for limited road spaces.

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