...As importers lament high cost of Eastern ports
By Eguono Odjegba
IMPORTERS and their clearing agents have alerted relevant government authorities on the lack of adequate berthing spaces for ships calling at the Onne Port operated by the West African Container Terminal, WACT.
They lamented that cargo ships were being delayed with associated port charges, owing to the availability of only three functional berthing spaces.
This situation, according to them, has led to a long line of ships on queue for as long as a month, before access to the port.
National President of National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, Chief Increase Uche, who raised the alarm, informed that the association has already notified the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, of the development. He, however, lamented that no steps have been taken to address the issue.
This is even as he lamented that the cost of importing goods through the Eastern Ports was exorbitant and much higher than what is obtainable in Lagos, because of inadequate and infrastructural limitations in the Eastern ports.
Uche said: “When these vessels get to the anchorage in Port Harcourt, before they are allowed to access the berth, it takes up to three weeks and a month. This is because of the number of berths available there.
“At WACT today, they have only three berths, and when they have up to ten vessels waiting, they would have to queue until the one that enters discharges and goes out. Another thing is the political will of the government because if the government had before now heeded the call for a deep sea port, all these challenges would have become a thing of the past.”
Also speaking on the development, President of All Ports Unified Freight Forwarding Practitioners Association, APUFFPA, Prince Mike Okorie, blamed the NPA for failing to ensure that terminal operators meet the minimum operational requirements to function.
Okorie said: “Even though we are unhappy that WACT has failed the minimum operational requirement, more of the blame should go to the Nigerian Ports Authority for also failing in its duty to ensure compliance.
“If NPA is up and doing, these foreign terminal operators will focus less on profit repatriation until their operational capacities are well in place.”