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MINISTER TASKS NPA ON PORTS MASTER PLAN

Source: NPA to carry to the council for approval.'
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The Minister of Transport, Alhaji Ibrahim Bio, has directed the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to immediately produce a port development plan to expand the nation's ports. Bio, who gave the directive on Tuesday night in Abuja during a courtesy visit by the Executives of Maritime Reporters' Association of Nigeria (MARAN) said: 'It appears NPA has not got a port developmental plan.'

According to the minister, any organization without a developmental plan will continue to drift and there would be no measure of improvement. 'Let the NPA have a 25 to 30 year port development plan.

NPA has the capacity and the resources if they only plan,' he said.

The minister said: 'Unfortunately, there is no master plan from NPA to carry to the council for approval.'

Bio explained that Nigeria controlled 70 per cent of maritime trade in Central and West African sub-regions and so much is expected as both an international and regional maritime player.

He expressed concern that both Apapa and Tin-Can Island ports are choked up, adding that there had been growth in the nation's cargo throughput but no corresponding growth in the expansion of the ports.

Bio said also that in the last 20 years, ports infrastructure had decayed, no good ports access roads, no rail and wondered why these would not create congestion.

The minister said he also wanted to see improvement of maritime security in Nigeria waters. He added 'it is disheartening to see 200 vessels along the Lagos anchorage doing illegal bunkering and transfer.'

The minister recalled that he had constituted a presidential committee for the removal of wrecks, adding that by the time he is leaving office, all the wrecks would have been removed. To properly police the nation's waters, he said there should be adequate patrol as well as search and rescue boats.

Bio also spoke on the on-going dredging of the River Niger and said it was better imagined to create riverine port development, establishment of dock yards, warehouses, tank farms along the channels and movement of vessels, boats and barges to carry both passengers and goods.

He said contract for the reconstruction of the Onitsha Port had been awarded with a nine-month duration, adding that apart from Onitsha Port, contracts for the reconstruction of Baro and Oguta ports has been awarded.

According to minister, the Lokoja Port contract was 13 per cent completed but had been abandoned by the contractor, who he alleged diverted the monies to something else. He said the ministry consequently revoked the project.

Bio pointed out that the dredging of the Calabar channel was badly conceived and this was why the channel was not appropriately dredged.

He said NPA had been directed to get another consultant to do a proper survey of the channel with a time line. That dredging of the channel should commence by March 2010.

The minister spoke on the 40-million dollars Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) which he said government desired to disburse but must adopt transparent modalities in the disbursements.

According to him, four banks, which he described as primary lending institutions, had been short-listed to participate in the disbursements.

He said: 'Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency would be responsible for 50 per cent of the loans, the banks, 35 per cent, while the shipping company would be responsible for 15 per cent. The government will recoup the loans unlike the previous exercise where beneficiaries used the monies for something else,' he said.