By Stephen Ubanna
When Hajia Hadiza Bala usman, Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority , NPA, redeployed Fumilayo Olotu, a former Port Manager, Calabar port, Cross river state, to Lagos Port Complex, popular, LPC, in south west Nigeria, in July, 2019, Maritime analysts were optimistic she will take the premier port to another level that will make it the first choice for shippers and shipping companies in the West African sub-region.
This is because of her singular marketing efforts which turned the dead port around that shipping companies and their agents which had abandoned the port over the years started taking their vessels and cargoes to the south east port. Investigations by The Value News shows that between July, 2019, that she left the port and now, the shipping agents have continued to take their vessels to the port.
This is evident going by the number of ships at the Calabar Pilotage District that had called at the port between June 8, 2020 and June 12, 2020. The port recent shipping Position obtained by The Value Newws shows that Delta Queen, with INTELs Nig. Ltd, as the agent, MT .Hanson, which has Karina shipping as the agent, MT. Ayasu, brought in by Peejay Shipping , MV. Calabar marine, which is linked to Pan Marine as the agent and MT. UNGESHI , associated with Blueseas as the shipping agent called at the port to offload their imported cargoes.
The shipping Companies vessels were said to brought different range of cargoes to the port. Take for instance, Intels, an oil service company, which was said to have offloaded an oil rig at theport, MT. Hanson 15,000 metric tons of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, popular, petrol, Peejay vessel but MT. Aysu offloaded 1,500 metric tons of LPFO.
Other expected vessels , expected from the Calabar Pilotage to the port include Allison Shipping, Seagle 1-Star, Kach Maritime vessel, MT. Seymour, MT.AMIF , owned by Peak Shipping, WAPS’ MT Orchad and MT.St. AMRAH, including Sea Grace, which has Jerome Shipping as its agent. According to reports from the port traffic Department the vessel,agent, Jerome, are already waiting for the arrival of the vessel to the port in order to take delivery of its cargo for documentation.
Other vessels at the Calabar Pilotage DistrictJune 12, 2020 and June 30, 2020.going by the port shipping position are between that had arrived the port between Monday, June 8, 2020 and Thursday, Juune, 11, 2020, include MV, Sea Grace, Eagle I-Star, MT Seymour, MT AMIF, MT Orchad and MT .S. AMRAH. The ship agents were Jerome shipping, Allison shipping, Kach Maritime, Peak shipping, WAPS and Blue Seas Maritime respectively.
The vessels ,expected day of arrival at the Calabar port, going by the shipping position are between June 12, 2020 and June 30, 2020. MV Sea Grace is expected to offload Imballast at the port, Eagle I Star, 14,499,757 metric tons of of Bulk Wheat, MT. SEYMOUR and MT. AMIF, 15,000 metric tons of petrol each. MT. Orchad and MT. AMRAH, are expected to discharge 7931,059, metric tons and 16,000 metric tons of PMS , respectively. This may have informed why Calabar is described as the home of PMS , importers in the south east.
Mrs.Olotu, who had left the Calabar port about a year ago is very happy that her efforts at turning the once dead port around was not in vain as her successor , had sustained the records. Many see the improved shipping activities at the Calabar port as a welcome development but pleads with the government to dredge the pilot to attract big ocean going vessels to the port like Container vessels.
The LPC, which had proved very difficult to manage by past Managers of the port because of the size and large staff strength , may have forced Mrs. Olotu to change her style of managing the traffic situation at the port by bringing in’’ creative innovations of doing business in order to make the port more attractive to shippers , shipping Companies and their agents’’ .
They believe that Olotu’s ,best in port management appear to have shown with the Wuhan Town in Hebei Province of the Asian country of China emerged coronavirus pandemic, popular, COVID 19. While other Port Managers are complaining of low cargo traffic to their ports as a result of the Pandemic, shippers, shipping companies and their agents struggled to take their cargoes to the Apapa port because of the structure she was said to have put on ground that had met the demand of Customers .
Insiders told The Magazine that the Pandemic , may have forced may shippers, Shipping Companies and their agents who in the past patronised, Cotonou Terminal and Bollore port, in Benin Republic, to take delivery of their cargoes, particular, General merchandise, to relocate to the LPC. This may have swollen up the Bulk cargo, General Merchandise and Container vessel traffic at the port, that virtually all the berths at the various terminals are usually occupied at every point in time, leaving one or two vacant.
The Sunday, June 8, 2020, shipping position, alone of the port, made available to The Magazine shows that there were 18 vessels, comprising of 12 Container vessels and seven Merchandise vessels awaiting clearance to sail to the port and berth to offload their imported cargoes .
The document shows that the Containerised cargoes include Yangtze, which has Hullblyth Shipping Company as the agent, RHL Conscienta and Zim Kingston brought to the port by LANSAL while the remaining Container vessels: Maersk Crdiff, Maersk Cardiz, Maersk Cape Town, SafmarineChambal, SafmarineChachai, Maersk Cabo Verde, Maersk Cameroon,and Wiking, were Maerskline vessels with the Marsk line , Nigeria as the agent. CMA CGM Nig and GAC shipping Companies , were said to have also taken their Container vessel: CMA CGN LAPIS and Seaspan Ningbo stemmed respectively to APMT, which makes the LPC, one of the busiest ports in the West African region.
Alraine vessel, Equinox Dawn, GMTS , Tong Da and Hullblyth’s Yangzetze were said to be awaiting Clearance to sail to the port with their General cargo to offload at the port as APS shipping is awaiting to get the nod from the port traffic Department to sail to the port to discharge its imported Frozen Fish. Vintage Olotu.
There are other vessels : Tiger Pioneer, , Genco Provence , Navigator Capricon, Super Emma, Desert Unity, and PIA –stemmed, which have APS, Bluse Star, Caverton, Coastal Service, Dalimfiz, Golden, WAPS and Wolid respectively , as shipping agents that were still being expected at the Lagos Pilotage District between June 12 , 2020 and June ,20, 2020 in order to sail to the port.The expected five vessels at the Lagos Pilotage District , were said to be coming to the port with imported General cargo, Butane Gas, Buk Wheat, AGO/Jet AI and Soya beam.
The NPA Authorities may have known that at the rate which Container vessels are calling at APMT and Tincan Island Container Terminals that it had to review the operating licenses of the barge operators to facilitate the evacuation of Containers at the ports. Until, the Hajia Usman led NPA, took the decisison to do so, they had known that there were lapses the old arrangement which needed to be corrected.
It was not surprising why the Management had to take the bold initiative to review the operational licenses of the barge operators to ensure that only the serious ones are allowed to remain in the business. Jato Adams, General Manager, the Authority Corporate and Strategic Communications who gave an insight to the Management decision, reportedly said that the fee of the barging licenses still remains at N100 ,000.00 . This is in addition to a N50 million bank bond in order to know the operators that are serious to do business with NPA.
Although, the licensed barge operators have commenced the evacuation of Containers at the Lagos ports of Apapa and Tin can Island, to the terminals, Kelikume Edeme, President, , Barge Operators Association of Nigeria, BOAN, has given his words that they will Cooperate with NPA, to curb the proliferation of illegal operators in the business. He , however, expressed the concern over the number of days spent to lift Containers to Ikorodu Lighter Terminal,I LT, and other terminals outside the port environment.
As a prelude to the operators return to the business, Edeme, the BOAN President confirmed that the overtime cargoes at the APMT, have been computed, showing how committed and dillegent , Mrs. OLotu, the Apapa port Manager could be in discharge of her duties, in order to make the job of the barge operators easy.
He lamented that the delay add up to their operational costs which is not too good for the business. Note that the adoption of barges as an evacuation model of Containers at the ports was said to have been adopted by Rotimi Amaechi led ministry of Transportation in 2016 in order reduce Congestion at the ports.
The conduct of the barge operators may have become very worrisome that Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, had to intervene to save the government revenue. The Customs Comptroller General, may have intervened to put a halt to the use of barges in the evacuation of Containers from the port, because the intelligence report at the Custom boss disposal that the use of barges to evacuate Containers from the port was a fraud as Containers were allegedly diverted to illegal warehouses. The two parties were said to have reached a meeting point before the barge operators were asked to return to work.