The bid by the federal government to advance non-oil export received a major boost yesterday when the maiden voyage of 7,000 tons of cocoa export took off from Calabar port, Cross Rivers State to the United States of America.
The 7,000 tons of cocoa was loaded by Starlink Global and Ideal Limited through Ecomarine Terminals in Calabar port for onward export to US.
The Calabar port has faced draft limitations for over 14 years after concession, but the ingenuity of Ecomarine Terminals Limited led to the maiden export of cocoa beans from the seaport.
The feat is a turning point in the history of the port, which has signalled improvement of non-oil export from Nigeria.
Speaking at the load-out ceremony in Calabar, the Cross Rivers State Governor Ben Ayade, said the state is rich in agricultural resources, urging the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to expedite action on the dredging of the Calabar channels in order to aid increase in exports.
Ayade, who was represented at the ceremony by the state Commissioner for Commerce, Mrs. Rosemary Archibong, said: “It’s time for us not to just export raw materials, but export processed goods,” as she urged the indigenes to exploit the massive opportunities that the numerous cash crops in the state present.
The governor disclosed that the waterways are always under surveillance, hence the adequate security in the state.
The Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, said the ports authority is pursuing the federal government’s economic recovery agenda through consistent improvement on the quality of service delivery at the country’s seaports, especially the eastern ports.
She said that Calabar port did not fall short of revenue generation, even during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which showed the efficacy of service improvement.
Bala-Usman said: “Although we are not where we want to be, we are definitely not where we used to be. I, therefore, call on all shippers and port users within the northern and eastern flanks to follow the example of Starlinks and bring their cargoes to Calabar and other eastern ports. This will certainly ease the pressure on Lagos ports.”
The acting General Manager, Ecomarine Terminals Limited (ECM), Calabar, Edward Akpan, said the company has identified the gaps that hinder diverse business opportunities that abound in the maritime domain in Nigeria and Calabar pilotage district, in particular, adding that despite the challenges, ECM has consistently marketed the port, and it is one of the few ports that export clinker, PKS, cement and now cocoa in the country presently.
Noting that the non-completion of the dredging of the channel to the advertised draft of 9.4 metres is today the biggest threat to the development of the port with adverse effect on its functionality, he, therefore, urged the government to ensure urgent dredging of the channel.
On his part, Director-General of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Segun Awolowo, said exporters suffer undue delay at Lagos due to the traffic congestion, stressing the need to boost operations at the eastern ports, such as Calabar port.
He said NEPC is vigorously pursuing its zero-oil export agenda, urging the government agencies to provide the necessary infrastructure for Calabar ports as an alternative to Lagos ports.
Also, the Managing Director, Nigeria Export Import Bank, Abubakar Abba Bello, said the renewed promotion of export through Calabar port would boost the economy of the region and generate employment for the youths.
In his remark, the Managing Director of Starlink Global Ideal Limited, Adeyemi Adeniji, stressed the need for the government to encourage local investors, noting that the cocoa would be shipped on a chattered vessel.
ECM Terminals Limited Calabar Free Ports is a multipurpose terminal designed to handle and store various types of cargo. The terminal, which consists of three berths, four to six, has a total length of 480 metres.