At last, Onne Port, a deep sea port in Rivers State is to handle heavier vessels as the Federal Government through the Ministry of Transportation moves to break the monopolistic stranglehold of Lagos over shipping.
Shipping is contributing largely to the expansion of the Lagos economy, creating immense economic opportunities and much needed jobs.
For months, the Minister of Transportation, working in conjunction with officials of the Ministry, NPA and NIMASA has been tinkering with a new policy direction that would extend maritime operations further down South and benefit the business community in the East.
We have learnt that the decision to act positively in the national interest has been influenced by the realization that the existing lob-sided arrangement is not good for the country.
Of late, records show that the Lagos Port has become overstretched due to traffic.
Last week, Onne Port, one of the ports in the southern part of Nigeria received the biggest ever container ship to arrive in the country.
The vessel which is a Maerskline Stardelhorn model has an overall length of 300 meters with a width measuring 48 meters, berthed at the Federal Ocean Terminal (FOT) Onne in Rivers State.
Reports say the vessel was received by port officials at 1620 hours on Saturday, August 15, 2020.
The vessel has a total capacity of 9,971(TEUs – twenty-foot equivalent unit) is a flagship model from Singapore.
This is the biggest ship to ever berth at any Nigerian port.
As part of a futuristic plan that would see the Rivers State and the Niger Delta playing active roles in shipping, the new Bonny Deep Sea Port conceived by the Federal Government is gradually taking shape.
With the gigantic container ship berthing in a southern port, it is obvious a new era is about to begin, following what observers see as rational move to decentralize port activities in Nigeria.
Many Nigerians have in the past called for a decentralization plan as a result of the overcrowding of the Apapa port in Lagos and the need to further open up the economies of other geopolitical regions within the country.
While efforts are being intensified by the NPA under Amaechi’s watch to dredge the Eastern ports Calabar, Port Harcourt, Warri and Onne, flat bottom ships are beginning to make their way to the South.
Two vessels, MV Desert Ranger, and MV Desert Harrier, both flat bottomed vessels (200M) were recently received by Southern ports. They had brought in wheat.
Experts say utilizing the eastern port will go a long way in resuscitating the economy and creating a non-exhaustive working environment for the Lagos port.
They say that the berthing of one of the world’s largest ocean vessel in Nigeria, and the south-south in particular, raises a lot of hope for the economies of litoral states.
With the new policy by the Nigeria Ports Authority, authorized by the Ministry of Transportation, the Rivers economy may indeed receive a shot in the arm.
The implication is that stevedores, clearing and forwarding agents, ship bunkers and other subsidiary groups that are linked to shipping and maritime operations are likely to turn Onne and Port Harcourt into a sailor’s hub.
Last week, that expectation came alive as one of the biggest container ships in the world docked at Onne.
Built five years ago, the Ship which steered into Rivers waters carrying much needed goods led to great rejoicing among dock workers. At Government House, Port Harcourt, officials looked on, with keen interest.