From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) has bemoaned the ongoing theft of buoys worth millions of naira, which has made navigation more dangerous and discouraged international cargo ships from using Nigeria’s eastern maritime corridor.
Major ports along the Eastern water ways are in Calabar, Port Harcourt, Onne, and Warri.
Managing Director of NPA, Mohammed Bello Koko, disclosed this on Tuesday at the 55th Session of the State House Briefing, Organised by the Presidential Communications Team, while providing key updates on the strides being made by it in line with the Authority’s mission to deliver efficient Port services in a safe, secure and customer-friendly environment.
According to him, each of the buoy, which serve as navigational route signs, cost between N12 million and N20 million, whereas no fewer than 25 of these maritime safety equipment have been stolen from Nigerians waters this year alone.
Koko explained that apart from the cost of the buoys, it is even costly to install and deploy them waters.
The NPA boss bemoaned that the lack of these buoys put ships at risk of running aground; as a result of this anxiety, many foreign ship captains choose to avoid certain areas of Nigerian waterways, which has an adverse effect on government revenue at the affected ports.
The NPA boss stated that the Authority had been interacting with the locals and their leaders in the areas and villages where the thefts occur as part of attempts to stop the trend and explaining to them how their local economy is also adversely affected by the crimes.
Koko added that these buoys stolen by the vandals are often turned into scrap.
According to him, some of the buoys “have solar panels and sensors; and there is a beacon light there that flashes at night. So the first thing they do is to vandalize that sensor.
“And then you just have iron that has no light, and they can just drag it off without the sensors.
“We can monitor it if it is not disconnected. Atimes we send in our boats to go round scouting for it. And to also be fair to the communities. We have had some instances where the buoys were naturally taken away by nature, they went adrift, they ended up on the shore of some communities.
“And to be fair to them, they have actually called us a couple of times to tell us that there’s a buoy that has gone adrift and it is in our community. And we thank them for that.
“We believe probably the communities do not even know the individuals that are involved in these activities. So we are monitoring the buoys. And that’s how we got to know how many are stolen any day it’s stolen.
“Because the captains are also taking vessels in and out of the water channels, they will naturally know when they can’t find the beacons on the buoys, meaning that something is missing, and they normally report it.”
However, the NPA boss assured that every effort has been made to make the Eastern maritime corridor attractive to investors.
To this end, Calabar and Onne Ports are now ISO-certified and have seen tremendous increase in traffic, not just imports but also exports, with Onne becoming the fastest-growing port in Nigeria today, he said.
Koko said: “In terms of percentage input, Onne has done 11,800 metric tons half of this year. We are seeing that the increase in percentage is high, probably because it’s easier to do business in Onne now.
“And because we have deployed more equipment in Onne, more personnel, we have paid attention to ensure that we made the port more competitive. In terms of export also, there’s an export processing terminal within Onne itself.”
He further revealed that one of the Terminal Operators there – West Africa Container Terminal (WACT) – has invested more than $100m in terminal expansion, deployment of equipment and technology.
The NPA boss also revealed that
several vessels engaged in crude oil theft on its deep waterways usually put off automatic identification system to avoid being tracked by mart items officials, with the country losing billions of dollars in revenue.
“The intelligence persons bringing in vessels to steal crude, one of the things they do is, they short down the Automatic Identification Systems (AIS). This is what is needed in terms of transmission for you to even know, when the vessel comes in and the location they to go to. They come in legally but then they go by the left hand side to commit illegal activities after switching of their AIS. We are going ahead to deploy the Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) and to also have information in terms of vessel movement”, he said.
The NPA boss also disclosed that the Authority generated N172.28 billion in revenue in the first half of 2022.