Effort of terminal operators to revive the already moribund Eastern ports with heavy financial investments are being frustrated by the Mallam Abdulsalam Mohammed ledÂ management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) which has refused to allocate tug boats to the ports in the region.
Already, the only functional tug boat at Port Harcourt Port has broken down forcing shipping companies to look for alternative elsewhere. Other ports in the Eastern region do not have tug boats at all.
Though the ports in Port Harcourt, Warri and Calabar are beginning to experience business boom but lack of tug boats is said to be an albatross to the quick growth of the ports.
Terminal operators believe that the failure of NPA to provide tug boats in the Eastern Ports is slowing down their efforts at reviving the once abandoned ports.
Shipping companies complained that they are forced to hire private tug boats even though NPA is paid for the provision of tug boats which they do not have.
A Chief executive of a shipping company who pleaded anonymity described the failure of NPA headquarters in Lagos to provide tug boas in Eastern ports as a deliberate effort to discourage patronage of ports in the region.
He said it was absolutely wrong and fraudulent for NPA to be collecting money for services it does not render which makes pilotage cumbersome.Giving example of Port Harcourt Port , the shipping chief executive said that the only tug boat that was functional before has broken down and that shipping companies are forced to source for the equipment from private operators at high cost.
But in spite of the lackadaisical attitude of NPA to provide tug boats for the ports, the private terminal operators are undaunted in their resolve to rebuild and properly equip the ports.
In fact, one of the terminal operators recently purchased ten cargo handling equipment at once.The cheery news is that the private investments are paying off as the ports have recorded over 200% increase in business performance.
Save for the absence of tug boats, port users in the region opined that with the level of investments and public awareness created by the terminal operators, the ports by now should be competing favourably with Lagos ports.
However, the Port Manager of Port Harcourt Port, Mr. Dele Alabi vehemently denied that there is no functional tug boat in Port Harcourt Port.Alabi said that there is a standby tug boat that is serving the port presently and that two other serviceable ones will soon go for repairs.
According to him, the tug boat christened Balassa is working effectively and that the two others to be repaired will complement it after they are put in good shape.The Assistant General Manager, Corporate Affairs of NPA, Mr. Musa Iliya could not be reached for his response to this development.