Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has asked the Barge Operators Association of Nigeria (BOAN) to work together to increase their capacity and reduce port congestion in Nigeria.
He made the call at the maiden annual conference of the association on Tuesday.
Port congestion has remained a great concern over the years leading to up to three-week delay before vessels can berth after arriving Nigerian shores.
The congestion is caused by ageing infrastructure; poor rail transport that forces 90 per cent of cargo to go by road; and an almost complete lack of automation, which means every container must be physically inspected by customs officials.
In a bid to ease port congestion in the country, Amaechi, represented by the Permanent Secretary, Dr Magdalene Ajani, spoke of the ministry’s commitment to revamping the nation’s transport network including the roads, railways and waterways.
The minister in his speech said the AfCFTA was signed by African states to promote intra-African trade and free movement of goods and services within Africa with a projected increase of 52 per cent by 2022.
He said the deal contained trade protocols that impacted directly on shipping and the maritime industry which had led to the government revitalising the maritime sector especially the inland waterways which he said was yet to be fully harnessed.
Amaechi said, “The present administration is committed to exploring and harnessing the maritime sector to support the national economy in the face of dwindling oil revenue which has been our major revenue source.
“To achieve this, the government has embarked on improving transportation infrastructure to promote integrated, intermodal transportation systems as demonstrated by the ongoing massive railway development projects connecting cities within the country and its regional landlocked country, Niger Republic.
“Also, development of inland waterways is a priority initiative to improve inland trade, transport connectivity, maritime activities with neighbouring countries, create wealth and employment and facilitate trade and generate more revenue.”
Amaechi said the ministry was ready to support the maritime industry but noted that the sector had to be productive and effective which was only possible if barge operators came together to increase their capacity and move goods from the various ports through the inland waters to their final destinations in order to reduce congestion on the roads.
In his address, BOAN President, Mr Edeme Kelikume, said the union was formed due to the necessity of sustaining the barging industry and organising its members to address challenges caused by port congestion that had led to a huge loss of earnings.