For decades, the Warri Port suffered security challenges, indeptedness, lack of patronage, vandalism, facilities decay and so on but the coming on board of the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Mohammed Bell Koko is changing the narrative for good
By Ovie Edomi
Shortly after his appointment, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Mohammed Bello Koko made up his mind on three key staff that can be made to bring life to Calabar, Portharcourt and Warri port which are located in what is known as Eastern ports To achieve this goal he appointed three new Ports Managers for the three ports with specific mandates to turn the ports around for effective take off of full operation.
This insiders noted was to create more viable gateways and enable consignees to have alternatives to Lagos Ports. To achieve his goal, Bello Koko got the federal Government to approve a budget that would be used to revive the ports, starting with Warri port that was for a long period of time abandoned and Tin port in Lagos.
When this Reporter visited the Warri port last month a visibly happy port manager of Warri port, Mr Nelson Uwaifo Ovbude said ” Our Managing Director knew the right people to put in different positions. Not only that the Managing Director of NPA and his management team have been so magnanimous to Warri port. To say that he is a motivation to us is an understatement”
Warri port, which is located in Delta State, became a more important port city during the late 19th century, when it became a centre for the palm oil trade and other major items such as rubber, palm products, cocoa, groundnuts, hides, and skins. Warri was then established as a provincial headquarters by the British in the early 20th century and served as a hub for export and export activities for a long time
Sadly, Warri Port problem started before the port concession of 2006 but investigation revealed that the collapse of the breakwater some years ago caused high siltation that reduced the draft of the channel from 7 to 3 meters in some places. Experts who spoke to this Reporter noted that with a shallow draft, big vessels usually would find it extremely difficult to come to Warri Port, which was responsible for the long abandonment of the Warri port by importers and exporters
It was in order to resolve the long abandonment of the Warri port, that the NPA under Bello Koko awarded a contract for the dredging of the Escravos channel that leads to Warri Port. The dredging was aimed at helping to expand the channel, enable bigger vessels to visit the port, and eliminate the possibility of vessels running aground along the channel. As at the time of this report the Excravous channel has been dredged. Findings revealed that the permissable draft of the Warri channel is now 6.6m
The NPA management is also currently undertaking a bathymetric and technical survey of the Warri pilotage district, in order to stop siltation collapsed breakwater into the channel.
This may be why Mohammed Bello-Koko, managing director of the NPA told the Olu of Warri during a visit that ” We have a special interest in ensuring that Warri and other ports are more active. The essence is to enable us to be able to know the draft along the way and also ensure that the navigational aids are properly placed.“
With the successful dredging of the Excravous channel, the NPA has started the laying of bouys along the channel towards fairway bouy. This has not been done for over a decade, according to findings by this Reporter. It would be recalled that the Warri port is located 107km or 58 Nautical miles starting from the fairway buoy down to Koko Port.
Curously, Delta State has multiple port locations including Warri, Burutu, Koko, and jetties among others. The Warri port after the 2006 port concession has integrated logistics services limited, INTELS operating in terminal A in old port. Also on old port are Ocean and Cargo services which operates in terminal B and Julius Berger NIgeria limited which operates in terminal C. Operating in the new Warri port are INTELS terminal B, and Associated Maritime NIgeria limited which operates in terminal one.
But insecurity is a major challenge limiting the efficiency of Warri port just like other ports under Eastern ports. This explains why there is an existing collaboration between the NPA and the Nigerian Navy towards addressing issues around insecurity. Even then, the current Port Manager, Nelson Ovbude had to develop a way to reach out to the community leaders, religious heads and traditional rulers in the host communities. A development that has made Ovbude popular and highly cherished by the youths, community leaders, the hardicap persons and traditional rulers. The goodwill that Ovbude enjoys created room for the successful dredging of the Excravous channel without hitch from any youths or community during the period the dredging contract lasted
With the dredging of the Escravos channel and the vast rehabilitation of the administrative block of the NPA in addition to other projects an insiders say it will revive the Warri port and help deploy maritime investments that will attract importers and exports to it. A development which Charles Okorefe, senior Lecturer, Maritime University, Okerekoko, says could make importers change locations other than Lagos especially with the 30 per cent rebate that NPA management wants to give those who patronise any of the Eastern ports.
According to Francis Okoro, ” with the work carried out do far it would boost the cargo volume at the Warri Port. He was however quick to recommend the appointment of a channel management company and connection of Warri port to the national rail line in addition to complete rehabilitation of other old facilities in the Warri port.
When this Reporter visited the PM was still battling with encroachment to the Warri Port land, indeptedness to the port as well as developing more community relations plan
Aside the giant of Bello Koko in Warri port, the Authority generated N172.285 billion in the first six months of its operations in 2022. An amount which has been remitted to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, CRF of the federation.
Ports observers say NPA under Bello Koko recorded a total of 1,992 ships calls while the aggregate of the Gross Registered Tonnage, GRT, of Vessels was 60,235,133 tons. The Authority achieved a total cargo throughput of 38,672,392 metric tonnes and 849,175 TEUs, while turn around time, TAT of vessels which indicates level of port efficiency stood at 5.16 days.
For now, Bello-Koko is strategizing to achieve more in the remaining part of 2022 and the years that are ahead.