New Telegraph

Output: COVID-19, others hit port operations

Low cargo traffic at the nation’s seaports have been traced to lack of space filled with overtime cargoes, Coronavirus crisis and ship diversion to neighbouring ports, BAYO AKOMOLAFE reports

The United Nations Conference on Trade (UNCTAD) has said that the value of intra-Africa’s merchandise trade was put at $159.1 billion, which accounts for 16.1 per cent of the world trade. Of the value, Nigeria’s contribution to intra-African trade merchandise was 6.8 per cent or 10.81 billion due to some challenges at the seaports, leaving a huge market gap to be explored. For instance, in 2020, 726 ships were registered under Nigerian flag, while 400 vessels were captured by Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), 265 ships owned by Nigerians were carrying foreign flags, putting the deadweight of Nigerian owned ships with foreign flags at 6.485 million tonnes compared to those carrying Nigeria’s flag put at 4.526 million tonnes.


Worried by the dwindling ship traffic and volume of cargoes at Nigerian ports in 2020, the Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, said that the ports had been filled with huge overtime cargoes, thereby inhibiting new imports. She added that lack of deep seaports, high cost of tariff and policies of government on some banned products had affected the ports. For instance, she explained that the volume of cargo handled at Nigeria’s seaports dropped to 78.4 million metric tonnes in 2020 from 80.2 million metric tonnes recorded in 2019, representing a decline of 2.24 per cent. According to her, the ports also recorded a decline in ship traffic, noting that a total of 3,972 ships called in 2020 as against 4,251 in 2019.


Bala Usman attributed the drop to COVID-19, which ravaged the global economy. She noted: “In year 2020, the nation’s busiest port, Apapa Port received 632,148 Twenty Equivalent Units (TEUs) of container traffic compared to 668,672 TEUs received in 2019. For the nation’s second busiest port, Tin Can Island Port, 650,365 TEUs of containers arrived at the port in 2020 compared to 820,942 TEUs of containers in 2019. “For Onne port, 266,109 TEUs of containers arrived in 2020 compared to 247,528 TEUs in 2019. In Rivers port, 91,971 TEUs of containers arrived in 2020 compared to 71,020 TEUs in 2019. At Calabar port, 1,561TEUs of containers arrived in 2020 compared to 174 in 2019. Delta port suffered a dip in container traffic in 2020 with 1,224 TEUs compared to the 6,827 TEUs it recorded in 2019. In total, the number of container traffic that came to Nigerian ports was 1,643,378 TEUs compared to the 1,815,163 TEUs received in 2019.”

Ship traffic

For a number of vessels, which called at the Apapa port, the managing director explained that 986 ships called in 2020 compared to 1,034 vessels in 2019, saying that at Tin Can port, 1,127 ships called in 2020, while 1,311 vessels called in 2019. Also, she explained that all the ports received 3,972 ships with a Gross Registered Tonnage (GRT) of 125.13 million compared to the 4,251 ships that called in 2019 with a gross tonnage of 138.57 million. In terms of cargo throughput, the managing director added that the Authority had 78.4 million metric tonnes in 2020, while the nation recorded 80.2 million metric tonnes in 2019. However, she stressed that the improvement in container traffic recorded at Onne Port was as a result of the deepening of the port channel and huge investment in cargo handling equipment by the West Africa Container Terminal (WACT). While restating the Authority’s commitment to the optimal utilisation of the eastern ports, she expressed concern over the refusal of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to auction overtime cargoes at Onne Port, which had taken up available space at the terminals.

Onne Port

According to Bala-Usman, “Onne Port is gradually becoming a container hub. The operators of the jetties that we have there have been getting a lot of traffic, but right now, the challenge we have in Onne Port is overtime cargoes that have not been collated and Customs has not auctioned these overtime cargoes, which has resulted in cargoes remaining a long time at the port and the terminals not having enough space to accommodate new imports.” She also recalled that in 2019 report, the ports handed a cargo throughput of 38.5 million metric tonnes in the first half of the year, noting that the volume represents an increase of eight per cent over the cargo throughput of 35.91 million metric tons over the corresponding period of 2018.

Previous year

Unlike 2020, she said that the number of ocean-going vessels, which called at the nation’s six major seaports within the period under review, also increased from 2,008 to 2,111, representing a growth of 5.2 per cent. Bala-Usman added that the gross registered tonnage (GRT) of ocean-going vessels completed in the first half of 2019 stood at 67 million metric tonnes – representing an increase of 3.3 per cent over the 64.89 million metric tonnes handled at the ports from January to June 2018. It was gathered that the container traffic recorded within the period stood at 901,395 TEUs, leading to a growth of 16.2 per cent over the 775,842 TEUs handled in the corresponding period of 2018. Delta ports witnessed significant growth as it handled 300 vessels compared to the 268 vessels handled by the port in the first six months of 2018, while Rivers Port handled 160 vessels while Calabar Port handled 82 vessels during the period. Cargo throughput at Delta Port rose by 52.2 per cent year-on-year from 2.89 million metric tons recorded in the first half of 2018 to 4.41 million metric tons recorded in the first half of 2019. Cargo throughput at the Tin Can Island Port in the first half of 2019 stood at 7.79 million metric tonnes; a growth of 12.7 per cent over the 6.92 million metric tonnes handled in the corresponding period of 2018. It noted that the Delta Port, was as a result of the recent dredging of the port channel, which has increased the number of vessels, especially petroleum tankers, calling at the port.

Last line

National fleet development must be promoted, while cargoes must be generated with improved vessel turn around time, in order to create efficient maritime operations.

Read Previous

Oando: Enmeshed in endless legal tussle

Read Next

Issues in higher education development in Nigeria

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *