Insecurity: Operators lose N260 million monthly for escort of vessels to eastern Ports

Oluyinka Onigbinde

Investigation carried out by Nigerian NewsDirect, has revealed that shipping companies and terminal operators operating at the eastern ports are losing a whooping sum of N260 Million monthly for escort of vessels to  the eastern port of the country.

As shipping companies and terminal operators are mandated to pay a whopping sum of $30,000 (N10.8million at N360/ dollar) per voyage to escort ships to eastern ports due to insecurity and constant pirate attacks on vessels,

The Eastern port which comprised of Calabar, Onne, Delta and Rivers Ports all in the restive Niger Delta region have been underutilized due to high rate of sea piracy and other forms of maritime crimes which discourage importers and exporters who hitherto would have preferred the ports as their ports of choice for businesses activities.

However, according to the performance review for last quarter of 2017, which is between October to December by Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the ship traffic to Port Harcourt port is 78 with an average of 26 ships per month. With the escort of one ship with the minimum cost of $30,000 amounting to over N10 million, it then means that a whopping N260 million is expended on securing escort services on monthly basis.

According to investigation a total of 754 vessels have dumped the Eastern Ports of Nigeria in three years due to shallow depth, pirate attacks in the eastern ports.

Insecurity at Eastern port has also reduced the number of vessels that berth at these ports from 2,268 vessels in 2013 to 1514 in 2016.

According to the National Burea of Statistics (NBS), the number of vessels that berthed at the Delta Port dropped from 609 in 2013 to 433 in 2016 while the Gross Registered Tonnage at the Port also dropped from 8,687,160 in 2013 to 6,177,809 in 2016.

Also, Vessels that berthed at the Rivers Port dropped from 439 in 2013 to 287 in 2016 while the Gross Registered Tonnage at the Port also dropped from 6,761,057 in 2014 to 4,560,844 in 2016.

The Number of Vessels that berthed at the Calabar Port dropped from 373 in 2013 to 189 in 2016 while the Gross Registered Tonnage which peaked at 4,087,599 in 2015 dropped to 3,803,199 in 2016

The Number of Vessels that berthed at the Onne Port dropped from 847 in 2014 to 605 in 2016 while the Gross Registered Tonnage at the Port also dropped from 43,916,846 in 2014 to 35,937,547 in 2016

Speaking at an industry event recently, the General Manager, BUA Ports and Terminal, PortHarcourt, Mohammed Ibrahim raised the alarm that shipping companies and terminal operators had to make a special security arrangement to ensure the safety of their vessels going to Port Harcourt because of the high rate of attacks on ships.

Mr. Mohammed said ships going to Port Harcourt now have to be accompanied by escort boats up to 100 nautical miles and it costs as much as $30,000 per escort.

He explained that although the escort companies are accompanied by naval men with gunboats owned by Joint Task Force (JTF) or Navy but because gunboats cannot go beyond fairway buoy, the use of escort boats became germane.

“Vessels coming from Port Harcourt now insist on gunboats escorting them from fairway buoy but some vessels still insist that the escorts must not even stop at fairway buoy because of their previous experiences of attack outside fairway buoy. These are escort vessels with armed men onboard. Those armed men are either naval men or military men and I am saying this not as hearsay but because our vessels have been attacked.

“These escort boats carry armed naval men to escort the vessels. The military doesn’t have an escort boat that can go beyond fairway buoy, so escort boats are private boats that are being used by the oil service companies and they are different from gunboats. Escort boats are like tug boats and they align with the navy who gives them  men that are armed to lead them up to 100 nautical miles.” He said

Confirming level of insecurity in the Niger Delta, the minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi at a stakeholder’s interactive session held in Warri, Delta State noted that one of the factors militating against the success of the maritime sector is insecurity in the Niger Delta region, which he said is also hampering the growth and development of the region.

Niger Delta is not working because of you (Niger-Deltans). How many Lagosians ýare in the water in Lagos? None, reason why vessels will not come to Eastern port is because there is war insurance Risk placed on vessels because of restiveness in the region.

“War insurance means if the goods cost N10,000 in Lagos it will get it N20000 here because there is extra cost on it. There is insecurity in Lagos but not worse like we have here in Eastern port.

“Even as a minister, I can’t enter boat from Warri to Portharcourt but I can move around Lagos at any time of the day.

“I asked a former governor of Anambra state, Peter Obi why people from Anambra won’t import through Port Harcourt port and he said it cost less to import from Lagos and move to Onitsha even with the price they pay on the road. It is cheaper to import from Lagos to Aba and Aba to Portharcourt is 30 minute drive. He said it cost less even when it is evident that it will take 8 hours. The truth must be told; Warri used to be heaven but reverse is the case now.”

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