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Escravos bar that had impeded the coming in of big vessels and other ocean going barges to Warri Port would soon commence. The Escravos Bar dredging is part of measures being put in place to make the seaport commercially viable. Managing Director of the NPA, Ms Hadiza Usman, who made this disclosure at a stakeholders meeting held in Warri, recently, noted that the NPA board had concluded all necessary feasibility studies on the dredging and was waiting for ministerial approval, which might come in the next three months. We have briefed the stakeholders on the efforts that the authority has made in the provision of tugboats, provision of pilot cutters and also our intention to commence the dredging within the Escravos Bar. We have reached an advanced stage in our procurement process to enable us provide the dredging works and the navigational aid for Escravos Bar. This is why we are primarily here to dialogue on how we can ensure that traffic comes to Delta ports and all the eastern ports of the country. There’s a timeline to the engagement of the contractor.

We are hopeful that within the next 12 weeks, we will get the necessary approvals from the ministerial tenders board to enable us engage the contractors that will provide dredging works and navigational aids to the Escravos Bar,” she said. Apapa ports, including road, rail and waterway, is available for port users. A statement issued and signed by Ibrahim Nasiru emphasized NPA’s concerns over stakeholders worries about the state of access roads to the Lagos port complex in Apapa, especially. The dilapidated state of the roads, which has gone on for almost two decades has become a thing of concern to everyone transacting business in the Apapa area of Lagos including the Authority, whose prime facilities are located in this axis.

This accounts for the Authority’s decision to collaborate with other stakeholders who agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding facilitated by the Federal Ministry of Power Works and Housing to reconstruct the entire Wharf Road. In addition, realizing the need for a bleeder route to relieve pressure on Wharf road during construction, the GM of the NPA Western Zone heads a committee of all Terminal Operators, Millers and other stakeholders which worked to fashion out ways of fixing the Tin Can axis route with enduring palliative works while the wharf road construction is ongoing. The Authority is also exploring the feasibility of deploying multi modal cargo haulage around the Apapa axis. To this end, talks are on with the Nigeria Railway Corporation to encourage movement of cargo by rail to and from Apapa Ports and increase the frequency of evacuation since one train movement is equal to about 70 truck movements. The Authority has also gotten approval for the movement of cargo by barges over water as alternative to road transportation.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval of a policy review, which guarantees the right of importers to choose terminals or ports of their choice for the discharge of their cargo. The president also approved the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone Terminal in Rivers State as a multi-purpose cargo terminal, saying its non-designation as such previously did not in any way legally obstruct or compromise the operations of the free zone for all cargoes, including oil and gas. The letter was obtained exclusively by THISDAY from sources in the presidency. Intels, previously NICOTES, which among others, was granted a concession to operate terminals at the ports has dominated the business to the consternation of other operators who accused it of running a monopoly with the connivance of senior government officials, particularly at the NPA.

Its most evident stranglehold was in oil and gas logistics services, which it claimed to have an almost exclusive concession over, as most cargoes in that sector were directed to its terminals for discharge by government agencies saddled with the responsibility of regulating port operations. Many other operators, including Josepdam that was formed in 2006, and in May that year got a concession from the federal government to handle bulk and general cargo, complained loudly about what they termed Intels’ monopoly of the business. So loud was the agitation that shortly after she took over in September last year, Usman promised to institute a policy reform that would end the said monopoly. She would seem to have delivered on her promise, setting up a policy reform committee whose recommendations were approved last month by the president. Ports operations into three broad categorisation of bulk cargo, container cargo and multipurpose cargo. Accordingly, the FGN rejects the categorisation of oil and gas multi-purpose cargo terminal, as this is alien to the relevant concession agreements and inconsistent with global shipping practices. Oil and Gas Multi-purpose Cargo Terminal’ does not in any way legally obstruct or compromise the operations of the Free Zone as an Oil and Gas Free Zone, but rather, it merely indicates that all cargo including oil and gas can be discharged at the terminal.

FGN reaffirms past presidential directives that all importers are free to choose any terminal or port for the discharge of their cargoes, subject to the presence of all requisite regulatory agencies at such ports as required by extant regulations and in line with its policy of promoting competition and value for money. Consequently, any policy that designates certain ports by cargo type is cancelled. FGN based on terminals that importers choose to bring cargoes into the country. Industry watchers said on Sunday that the policy shift would bring smiles to the faces of over 170 operators whose businesses had been forced to close shop owing to the diversion of oil and gas cargoes to Intels’ terminals on the grounds that they were designated as an oil and gas terminal.

Intels won the bid for the concession of operation of port terminals, including the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone in Rivers State, following the implementation of the port reforms and concessions initiated by the federal government during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration. The exercise, which was supervised by the BPE, divested the management of the NPA of the day-to-day running of the terminals as well as cargo handling. Largely owned by an Italian, Mr. Gabriel Volpi, with former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar as another major stakeholder, Intels had used its presence of more than three decades in the industry and huge financial muscle to crowd out other players who were too weak to resist its dominance in the face of the preferential treatment it enjoyed from key government officials and regulatory agencies.

Atiku, THISDAY learnt, is believed to have sold down his interest in Intels to former Lagos governor, Bola Tinubu. It was a matter of time before other stakeholders staged a revolt, which steadily came to fruition late last year when the new administration under the watch of Usman harkened to their cries and instituted a policy review that got the presidential nod last month. Tugboats are small but powerful ships used to pull or push other larger ships for easy voyage from channels or restricted areas into the sea. The Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, who commissioned the tugboats in Apapa yesterday, said the facilities are the solution to the challenge of inadequate tugboats, especially in the Lagos area. Usman said the tugboats are fitted with the latest technology in world with 60 tons Bollard Pull capacity each and can handle vessels of 200 meters and above. The vessels are multipurpose equipment with fire fighting facility and two 3,680 kilowatts service engines. The boats are: MT Daura, MT Ubima, MT Uromi and MT Majiya.