By Chiazo Ogbolu
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) is seeking out-of-court settlement with the contractor dredging the Calabar channel.
The NPA Managing Director, Mr Mohammed Bello-Koko, made the disclosure when he paid a visit to the Calabar Port Complex.
According to him, dredging of the channel is a priority of the authority.
“The contract for the dredging of the Calabar channel was awarded many years ago but there is litigation between the Nigerian Ports Authority and the contractor.
“This has inhibited our ability to dredge the channel. What we have done in recent time is to start looking for out-of-court settlement.
“The authority, working with the Federal Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Justice, has resumed discussions in terms of how to settle this out of court, either to return the same contractor to continue dredging, or appoint another company.
“This has been delaying the dredging of that channel, we have taken it very serious, it is one of the reasons we are here today,” he said.
The managing director added that the visit was to enable NPA management to meet with stakeholders and reassure them that the Federal Government was taking necessary steps to ensure dredging of the channel.
On business traffic to Calabar, Bello-Koko said that the authority was aware of some limitations on the channel but believed that there would still be imports that would go to Calabar.
“We have been discussing with shipping companies and consignees; so, we will locate major importers and encourage them to use Calabar,” he said.
The NPA boss noted that a vessel recently berthed at the port through efforts of the port manager and NPA management.
He gave the assurance that more efforts would be made to make the eastern ports more active.
Bello-Koko said that NPA engineers had done conditional survey of the depth of pile in Calabar Port and other eastern ports to determine how decayed the quays were.
He said that it would lead to decisions on whether it would be constructed or replaced.
“Modernisation of the port is holistic, it is not just about TinCan or Apapa.
“We are talking about holistic modernisation of all the ports owned and operated by the NPA,” he said.
At the Ecomarine Nig. Ltd., Bello-Koko said that any concession by the authority must bring a positive change, adding that NPA would do its best to get Calabar Port functional.
“We have a tug that is supposed to come here, we wanted it to come together with marine vessels that we imported so there will be another tug that will ease the problem being experienced,” he said.
At the palace of the Obong of Calabar, Bello-Koko appealed to him to encourage his subjects to protect equipment and buoys for navigation on waterways.
“I have come to thank you for your support and cooperation that we have been getting from the community and to intimate you of our activities that will bring more economic activities to the society and the kingdom,” he said.
Responding, Obong of Calabar, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu V, said that waterways had been serving as highways to the community.
He said that the community had been taking care of them.
“Unfortunately, activities there were killed. We have been crying for sometime and we believe that the game changer, as he is being called, will make the change for us.
“I appeal that this should not be political but critical. Do something to ensure that things work well for us,” the royal father said.
Mr Utan Uye Utan, Operation Manager of Ecomarine, told Bello-Koko that it cost much to bring vessels to Calabar because of the challenge of getting vessels to berth.
He appealed to him look into it. (NAN)