Captain Emmanuel Iheancho, Chairman, Genesis Worldwide Shipping

Nigeria’s foremost Master Mariner and chairman of Genesis Worldwide Shipping, one of the few thriving indigenous shipping companies in the country, Captain Emmanuel Iheanacho has said that the country’s expected emergence of hub port for the West and Central African sub-region would continue to be elusive due infrastructural deficit.

Federal Government had projected that Nigeria might likely emerge a hub seaport for countries within the region after the completion of the port reform progamme, which had brought about a level of efficiency, a development that had been elusive more than 10 years after the conclusion of the exercise in 2006.

Iheanacho, who doubles as chairman, Integrated Oil and Gas Services Limited, spoke at the monthly round table forum organised by the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria MARAN, in Lagos Thursday, said that the concept of hub port status implies that other countries within the sub-region would ship their import and export cargo through Nigeria’s seaports in an efforts to either take advantage of the high level of port efficiency or cost effective systems or both.

He however regretted that due to the abysmally poor state of port infrastructure, especially bad port access roads, which is the only means of moving cargo in and out of the ports in the absence of multi-modal transport system and lack of truck parks, will continue to hamper the country’s dream of attaining a hub port status.

According to him, with this poor state of infrastructure, the ports cannot function optimally in terms of moving goods in and out of the ports and other processes, arguing that no foreigner would want to ship his consignments through Nigeria’s ports because the basic things that would attract them are absent.

“Nigeria’s port infrastructure is abysmally bad. There is deficit in terms of roads and truck parks and this makes it difficult to move goods in and out of the ports. Many of these roads were built several years ago and so there has not been any investment in road infrastructure, which accounts for this level of decay”

“Having been built several years ago, the roads have become obsolete, the volume of cargo is increasing, the nation’s population is also growing and yet the infrastructure is static, so there is no way you will not experience the kind of gridlock that you see around the port environment because the infrastructure is inadequate, he also said.

On the way forward, he suggested that the Federal Government should come up with a deliberate long term policy that would first generate the necessary data in terms of cargo throughput and then promote investment in port infrastructure development.

“We cannot endure this forever, so there is therefore the need to put in place a commission comprising representatives from the Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigerian Shippers Council, shipping companies, importers and exporters and other stakeholders, among others that would monitor the reconstruction of the port access roads”

“This will be followed by the re-designing of the roads, which will take cognisance of the current port statistics in terms of the cargo throughput, which will determine the size and dimension of the roads meant for reconstruction”, he said.