Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, on Saturday celebrated the successful berthing of the largest container ship ever to berth in any Nigerian port.
The Maerskline Stardelhorn ship with an overall length of 300 metres and width of 48 metres, successfully berthed at the Federal Ocean Terminal, Onne, Rivers State at 4.20 pm on Saturday. It is the size of three football fields.
The vessel, a flagship from Singapore, has a capacity of 9,971(TEUs). It was reportedly diverted to Onne as part of efforts to decongest the ports in Lagos.
The authorities in Nigeria have been concerned about the congestion at Lagos ports over the past two decades. The congestion had come with road traffic crises that have seen a greater part of the port city at Apapa and neighbouring districts locked down.
The situation had been made worse because of the use of adjoining jetties in Apapa for offloading of imported petroleum products. The presence of thousands of huge trailers and petroleum trucks from all over the country in Apapa caused damage to the roads and created environmental and sanitation issues. Efforts by successive federal and state governments to redress the situation had failed woefully.
This had led to call for government to open up activities of the Eastern ports in Port Harcourt, Onne and Calabar and the Delta ports in Warri, Burutu and Koko for importers.
Several excuses given for the rejection of ports outside Lagos had included security and ease of clearance of goods. But people in Onne, Warri and Calabar had read political bias into it. They claim that ports outside Lagos were discredited to boost economic activities around Lagos and paralyse activities at the other ports.
The successful berthing of the Maerskline Stardelhorn ship also puts paid to claims that big ships cannot access the ports in Warri, Port Harcourt and Onne because their channels are shallow. It also questions the security concern claims about the use of the ports.