Between the Ghanaian port of Tema and Nigeria’s port of Lagos, the former appears more ready to emerge as hub port for the West African region.
Nigeria’s many talks about becoming the hub port for the West African region may only exist and end in the realm of mere desires as adequate preparation for the status is more evident in favour of Ghana which operates only 2 ports in the cities of Tema and Takoradi.
Recent investigation by The Journal after a visit to the port city of Tema in Ghana and juxtaposing it with that of Lagos in Nigeria suggests strong likelihood of the Ghana being more receptive to vessels and cargo traffic.
With a draft of 9.7 meters which is below Nigeria’s 13 meters, the Tema Port is about expanding its capacity by three times its present size and widen its doors to the global maritime public whose traffic is directed to the West Coast of Africa.
With the Ghanian government keeping 30% ( thirty percent) equity control of the concession of the port to private port operators,government is not completely out of managing the system which is a national heritage.
State presence checks excesses of profiteering tendencies by port operators who may want to leverage on their position to arbitrary charge port users in a manner that can encourage inflation in the economy.
With not too wide port access roads,the proper organisation of the port with proximate position for containerized cargoes and empty containers.
The Ports of Lagos and Tema however suffer some uniform challenges like poor rail system which inhibits seamless movements of containers from port to warehouse by rail.
Though the Ghanian waters have challenges of piracy and sea robberies, incidents of attacks,hijack,kidnap of crew members and bare faced robberies at sea are more prevalent in a Nigeria than Ghana.
These maritime related crimes have been more prevalent in Nigeria. Statistics from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) had placed Nigeria as one with high level of such cases.
According to the IMB in 2013, ”With fewer attacks off Somalia, attention has moved to the Gulf of Guinea, a hotspot for violent piracy and ship hijacking for many years. The region recorded more than 40 piracy attacks in the first three quarters of 2013, with 132 crew taken hostage and seven vessels hijacked – six tankers and an offshore supply vessel. The Gulf of Guinea accounted for all crew kidnappings worldwide, 32 of them off Nigeria, and two off Togo.”
”Nigeria, the main source of piracy in the region, accounted for 29 piracy incidents, including two hijackings, 11 ships boarded, 13 vessels fired upon and three attempted attacks. Pirates, often heavily armed and violent, are targeting vessels and their crews along the coast, rivers, anchorages, ports and surrounding waters. In many cases, they ransack the vessels and steal the cargo, usually gas oil.”
The enormous oil and gas resources in the shores of Nigeria makes the risk of illegal venture into Nigerian waters worth taking by ships with sinister intentions who set sail from far away continents hoping to get a ready made market to buy stolen crude oil off the coast of Nigeria.
IMPROVED FACILITIES AND INTERFACE WITH LANDLOCKED COUNTRIES
As a strategy to keep attracting more transit cargo, various government agencies in Ghana has established contacts with similar or counterpart agencies in the landlocked states with the intent to secure and sustain handling of their cargoes through Tema Port.
Notable among these is the signing of Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) between the Ghana Shippers’ Authority and her counterpart Shippers’ Authoritys of Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali in 1998, 2000 and 2003 respectively.
Nigeria is failing to regain its shipping business with the landlocked countries with a recent bold initiative by Ghana. Ghana has established Inland Container Depots for Burkina Faso and Niger for effective cargo transhipment from Tema Port to their destinations.
The Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) has developed standard alert and procedures for the transit cargoes to the landlocked countries and caused a reduction in Nigeria’s participation.
With the latest development, the GPHA’s Marketing and Public Relations Manager, Mr Paul Ansah, explained that Ghana is now the second largest container handler in the West Africa region.
Ansah noted that Tema Ports handled 842,000 Twenty Equivalent Units in 2013. Ansah explained during a visit to GPHA office by the officials of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and journalists that the port authority had embarked on port expansion on 400 hectares of land which would be three times the present capacity of Tema Port.
Until 2006, over 70 per cent of Niger Republic cargo were transited through Nigerian seaports as against the current zero per cent. Presently, over three million metric tons of cargo of Niger Republic which were hitherto handled by Nigeria had been shared among Togo, Benin and Ghana.
Due to harsh port operating environment, it was revealed that Nigeria lost a whooping N136 billion in 2013 to diversion of cargoes to other ports in the sub region. It was revealed that Niger was shipping about 2.5 million metric tons of its cargo from Benin Republic, 1.5 million metric tons in Togo and close to a million metric ton in Ghana.
Recent efforts to cause Niger Republic to resume importation through Nigeria is meeting brick wall as Nigeria port operators under the aegis of Seaport Terminal Operators Association of NIgeria(STOAN) are not willing to handle their(Niger’s) cargoes for free.
Nigeria Shippers Council recent moves to make Niger resume using the Lagos ports has not yielded results. Niger pulled out of shipping through Lagos in 2006 when the ports were handed over to concessionaires.
Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Hassan Bello, had last year led a trade delegation made up of port concessionaires, port administrators, government officials and other shipping service providers to Niger Republic on the behest of the Federal Ministry of Transport.
The essence of the trade mission, was to strengthen trade agreements between both nations to enable Nigerian ports handle more of the import and export cargo of the landlocked nations. The council aims to attract up to three million metric tons of Niger Republic cargo to Nigerian ports annually.
The seemingly endless security challenges facing Nigeria may snowball into a major economic setback for its import dependent economy.
The almost impossible to handle security challenge facing the country appears to be embossing her name in the map of troubled states across the globe. This situation, ostensibly has necessitated foreign assistance to the country and safety of transit cargo seems not guaranteed.
An explosion that rocked a fuel depot in the ports town of Apapa in Lagos hitherto dismissed by Nigerian government and security agents as some cylinders that exploded has since been counted amongst the dastardly acts of terrorists in the country.
Notorious terrorist group, Boko Haram has taken responsibility for the acts which points to the likelihood of terrorists attack on cargo or shipment within the Nigerian ports area and transit corridor.
This sets back the impacts of the many efforts by agencies of government to make the country a hub port in the West African sub region