By Evelyn Usman
THE Calabar seaport, Cross River State, has recorded a historic 7,000 metric tonnes of cocoa export shipment to the United States of America, USA, the first time of such cargo since its concession over 14 years ago. The export was handled from the Ecomarine Terminals.
Speaking at the load-out ceremony in Calabar, Governor Ben Ayade, called on the Federal Government to implement the agreement reached with the concessionaires on dredging of the Calabar port.
Boasting that the state was rich in agricultural resources, the governor asserted that the dredging of the port’s channels would be strategic in terms of employment opportunities.
Ayade who was represented by the Commissioner for Commerce, Mrs. Rosemary Archibong, lauded Starlink Global and Ideal Limited, for choosing to convey its cargo through the Calabar Port, noting that it was a plus to the Ecomarine Terminal and Cross River State to have a vessel departing to the USA.
He stated: “Calabar Port is very strategic to the economic empowerment of Nigerians in view of the employment opportunities here. All we are appealing for now, is for the Federal Government to expedite the dredging of the Calabar channel to really kick-start economic activities”.
Also speaking at the occasion, the Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, described the development as a sign of better things for the nation, urging other shippers to emulate Starlink.
Usman who was represented by the Port Manager, NPA Calabar, Marie Asan, said the authority was pursuing Federal Government’s economic recovery agenda through consistent improvement on service delivery at the nation’s seaports, especially the eastern ports.
She stated that Calabar Port did not fall short of revenue generation, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, an indication she attributed to service improvement.
She said “the Executive Management of NPA is pleased by this development , as it shows that the strategic measures put in place to make all the nation’s seaports viable and vibrant are beginning to produce positive outcome”.
The NPA boss informed that the management had introduced an inclusive governance system which had “brought modest milestones to Calabar Port in the areas of wreck removals, stimulation of container traffic, attraction of flat-bottom vessel traffic, restoration of broken down crafts and more”.
Also in his remark, Managing Director of Starlink Global and Ideal Limited, Adeyemi Adeniji, disclosed that the cocoa beans were sourced from Ikom Local Government Area of Cross River State which he said constituted a factor in utilizing the Calabar Port.
Describing the shipping of non-oil products from the Calabar sea port to the United States of America as an epoch making event, he explained however, that “in our search for a solution to different dimensional problems facing export in Nigeria, we opened a direct export from Calabar to the United States of America using a chartered vessel.
“As a proud Nigerian company, our reserve is to elevate Nigeria’s name internationally by doing all we can to prove that we are resilient, resourceful , innovative and forward looking”.
He however disclosed that the cost of shipping directly from the Calabar seaport to the U.S. was higher when compared to the Lagos port.
”He said:” the company is spending as much as 200,000USD to guarantee the safe passage of the chartered vessel. We are exporting 7,000 Metric Tonnes of Cocoa. It will take five days to load nearly one million bags of Cocoa into the vessel which will spend 17 days to arrive the United States of America”.
On his part the Manager, ECM Terminal, Edward Akpan, called for the re-introduction of the rebate regime to attract other shippers and integrate the Calabar seaport to the national rail link to further enhance access
He also urged the Federal Government to address critical challenges at the Calabar Port since tackling congestion of the ports in Apapa, Lagos State was critical.
He informed that ECM Terminal was a member of the EcoMarine Group and concessionaires of the Calabar Port Terminal ‘B’ with 30 years concession from the NPA, adding that “dredging of the Calabar channel is critical; the deplorable state of the access road is another factor impeding the full potential of the port and requires urgent attention”.
Also present at the occasion were the Managing Director, Nigerian Export Promotion Council, Olusegun Awolowo , his counterpart at the Nigerian Export Import Bank, Abubakar Bello , among others, who described shipping of 7,000 metric tonnes of cocoa through the Calabar seaport as a step in the right direction.