By Ifeyinwa Obi
The Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Malam Abdulsalam Mohammed has called for the development of green fields to expand portsâ€™ facilities.
Mohammed who was represented by the Calabar Port Manager , Mr Ahmed Dandare, made the call on Thursday on the occasion of the NPA Day at the 2009 Lagos International Trade Fair. Speaking on â€œTurning Global Economic Crisis into New Opportunitiesâ€™â€™, the NPA boss said that ports could be expanded on Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) by private investors.
He said that the total cargo throughput for all the ports for the year 2008 (excluding crude oil) was over 65 million metric tonnes, adding that â€œthis is against the built capacity of 35 million metric tonnes .â€™â€™
The NPA boss said that the nation requires significant investments in infrastructure, haulage and new ports to cope with the limited capacities of ports.Â â€œThere are opportunities for investors to participate in building of seaports on BOT, industrial, residential and commercial infrastructure to drive Nigerianâ€™s economic growthâ€™â€™, Mohammed said.
He added that the management of NPA had embarked on the development of a 25-year National Ports Master Plan that would from the basis for a strategic policy for effective utilization of resources and efficient service delivery.
The Master Plan is to incorporate all relevant data, physical, statistical, economic, traffic and others to provide a framework for realization of a planned effective and efficient port system for Nigeria that will enhance economic development of the country, the managing director said.
Mohammed also spoke on trans-shipment opportunities, saying thatÂ one of the ways to make the ports more competitive and attractiveÂ is in the area of trans-shipment services.
According to him, Nigeria is strategically placed to provideÂ such services and a new dedicated terminal should be constructed urgently to outclass other countries in West Africa also thinking seriously alongÂ that line.
He said that for trans-shipment to thrive in the country there is need for investment in dredging and cargo handling equipment.
Mohammed said that there was also opportunity for land-locked countries to transit their cargo through our ports,Â adding that some of these countries are Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and others.
On the world economic crisis which he said had affected the port industry, the managing director suggested that small importers, port investors, shipping companies and operators in the industry could enter into either strategic alliances or mergers.
According to him, by so doing, mega companies could be evolved with consolidated asset base and enhanced capital.
Mohammed also said that with the global economic crisis, the naira had continued to crash against the dollar, making it more difficult for Nigerian importers to do business and break even.
He also said: â€œthe decline in credit availability occasioned by the economic crisis had been a hindrance to Foreign Direct Investments, especially in the area of port development, port expansion and procurement of modern cargo handling equipment.â€
The NPA boss said that the collapse in world trade had led to lower ship and cargo traffic which by implication, less business for the port industry.
The economic crisis also provides an opportunity for Nigeria to look inward and fashion out ways of making the nation a production based economy, whereby products are manufactured locally to satisfy local demands as well as export needs, he said.