Nigerian Ports Authority on Saturday celebrated the successful berthing of MV: JPO VOLANS, a 300-metre long and 48-metre wide cargo ship laden with hundreds of containers at the quays of the Federal Ocean terminal, Onne in Rivers State.
The ship owned by Maerskline Stardelhorn arrived from Singapore. It is reputed to be the world’s biggest cargo ship. It was pulled from Bonny to Onne by three tug boats. As sudden as the news was, the event evoked wild jubilation among stakeholders in the business and maritime communities in Port Harcourt and indeed the larger markets in the eastern parts of Nigeria.
The reasons are obvious. The return of serious port activities at Onne will revive the economies tied to Onne and have multiplier effect on businesses in its catchment areas. Clearing and freight forwarding agencies would come back to life, dockworkers will resume work, hauling, logistics local car marts would bloom, real estate, warehousing and government revenue will generously receive boost from the new development.
Emi-Membere Otaji, a member of the Board of National Association of Chambers of Commerce Industries, Mines and Agriculture, NACCIMA, and former President of the Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, told the magazine that the berthing of MV; JP Volan at Onne was a welcome development and it will cause a turnaround in the economy in and around eastern parts of Nigeria.
Also reacting, the Chairman of the Rivers/Bayelsa Branch of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, Adawari Mike Pepple, told the magazine that the successful berthing of the ship at Onne has vindicated the lobby of the business community in the east that there was nothing wrong with the eastern ports. He also congratulated the shipping company for having faith in the port at Onne.
He said, “The berthing of the large vessel at FOT, Onne clearly vindicates the presentation that we had made before the House of Reps Committee to the fact that the Eastern ports have the capacity to receive such vessel.
“We believe that with this now, the issue of the Eastern ports have been half solved in the sense that the propaganda that existed before now was that such a vessel could not berth for spurious reasons, one of which sadly included security aspects.
“The vessel has berthed; no challenge as to security. No challenge as to the draft and all those people who were trying to pull down the startup and the commencement of full shipping activities in the eastern parts should now withdraw their position and rather campaign for the shipping business in the eastern ports, particularly in Onne port as it is now.”
Enyinna Osaronwaji, the Secretary of Eleme Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, ELECCIMA, the host chamber of Onne port, told the magazine that berthing of MV: JP Volan at Onne will open the way for other cargo ships to come to Onne.
“As a chamber we are happy that over these times nothing has happened at Onne. And if the vessel has landed there, it will create opportunities to leverage most of these youths in the area of employment even if it is going to be casual employment,” he said.
The Chairman of the Port Harcourt Zone of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, Joseph Obele, said commendations must go to the Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, for facilitating the diversion of the ship to Onne.
He listed the benefits of reactivation of port activities at Onne as follows: “We will buy cars very cheap. We will get building materials and parts very cheap. The front of most house will be car links and cargo standby space, thus you will earn for someone keeping goods at your front as it is in Lagos. Giant warehouses shall be constructed over here. It will open business and employment opportunities. There will be value for real estate; Crime will reduce and federal government’s attention for development will be drawn here.”
But a few others have expressed concern about the state of the roads leading to Onne. They fear that the joy of the revival of port activities at Onne could be short-lived if the main road, the East-West road is not fixed.
Femi Adejuwon, who lives at Onne said, “Onne Road to Port Harcourt, especially from Trailer Park to Eleme Junction is one of the worst roads in Nigeria. What will be the fate of the containers and cars and equipment so brought in with the so-called biggest ship to have ever arrived our coast? I once witnessed when a container dropped from a truck dodging a bad portion of the road just after Indorama gate along Onne road on top of a woman on a bike rushing home to breastfeed a child, killing her and the rider. I have always had a nightmare of this and I have always thought about the child that will grow never to know his mother. It is for our roads, l mourn. I am not celebrating the arrival of a ship.”
Adejuwon’s fears are shared by Udeme Obot, a public relations consultant in Port Harcourt. “It’s not enough to have the largest ship in our waters. We need to also consider the state of our roads. Can the stretch from Onne-trailer pack to Eleme Junction withstand the increased heavy duty trucks that will be moving the consignment out of Onne?
“Aleto bridge is at the verge of collapse and government has paid deaf ears to this problem. States can’t come to our rescue because Abuja has asked that they stay off federal roads. Anyway, welcome ship.”