Business Hilights
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How FG’s default in dredging Calabar Port in 2006 is killing Lagos ports

No doubt, investigations by Business Hilights Intelligence Unit (BHIU) has traced the ongoing intractable traffic gridlocks within the Lagos port city of Apapa to the failed move by the federal government to deepen the draft of Calabar Port in 2016.

Recall that Calabar Port, along with its peers in Port Harcourt, Warri, and Onne, are the gateway for sea trade in the South-Eastern Nigeria. The port is not only designed to serve the South-South and South-East regions, but also other neighbouring countries like Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

Since 2016, the management of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had in mind to dredge the Calabar Port channel as part of drive to diversify seaport infrastructure and reduce excessive pressure on Lagos ports, but issues in investigating previous contract and paucity of fund seem to have silenced the target till now.

Otherwise, dredging the channel has remained a challenge and an uphill task for successive administrations for decades including the present administration.

Key issue hobbling Calabar port remains draft dept and the facility is further weighed down by shallow water channel, poor roads and others, the port has failed to meet stakeholders’ expectations in the maritime industry and the country at large.

Findings by BHIU revealed that draft at approach of the Calabar channel is 6.4 metres at high tide and 5.4 metres at low tide, whereas the concession agreement stipulated that the Federal Government will take the draft to 9.5metres; and the Bureau on Public Enterprise (BPE) had assured that this would be achieved on start of business, but the situation remains the same since 2006 when the concession programme took effect.

About $56million contract for the dredging of Calabar Port Channel was awarded in 2006, but it remained uncompleted. The Federal Government awarded another contract in November 2014, for N20billion to complete the project. The contract, which was signed by the NPA, the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) and the Calabar Channel Management, was for the port to be dredged up to 9.8 metres, but it also failed to materialize.

Though the current managing director of NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, on assumption of duty on July 11, 2016, toured all NPA formations and felt worried on the performance of the Calabar port contract.

According to her, “The critical issue about Calabar Port has to do with the dredging of the channel; the draft needs to be deeper to ensure we attract more vessels. We need to jointly work to bring commercial activities into the state. We have discussed with the state government.”

Few months ago, NPA signaled readiness to once again, begin another round of dredging job at Calabar port with bathometric survey.

Industry analysts say if the funding is available, the job should be made to be faster so as to complete the dredging early enough to save Lagos port complexes from total breakdown of operations due to unprecedented pressure.