Sarumi urges Nigerian capital market to fund seaport projects, charges barge operators to merge

L-R: Chairman of Port Consultative Council (PCC) Otunba Kunle Folarin, General Manager of LASWA Mr Damilare, NIMASA Assistant Director Marine Environment, Mr Dennis Igho, President of BOAN, Kelikume Edeme, Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Transportation, Dr Magdalene Ajani, Chief Adebayo Sarumi, Mrs Jean Chiazor Anishere (SAN) DCP Taiwo Adeleke and representative of Apapa Customs Controller, Deputy Comptroller AG Bello at the 1st Annual Conference of BOAN in Lagos, Tuesday. Picture source: Daily Trend

Funding, one of our major challenges – Kelikume, BOAN President

Former Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Chief Adebayo Sarumi has urged operators of the Nigerian capital market to invest in seaport capital projects in Nigerian as a panacea for the ceaseless cry of port operators over funding and dependence on the government.

According to Chief Sarumi, “If the capital market can fund cargo which the ports handle, there is no reason why the capital market cannot fund execution of capital projects in the ports.”        

The former NPA boss challenged the capital market operators in his remarks at the first conference organized Barge Operators Association of Nigeria (BOAN) to examine its operations and the way forward at Marriott Hotel Ikeja in Ikeja, Lagos during the week.  

Earlier, the President of BOAN, Mr. Edeme Kelikume, in his opening remarks, had listed funding as one of the challenges which members of the association face in the discharge of their operations.   

Sarumi who thanked BOAN for coming to rescue the Lagos ports from traffic gridlocks described barging as a child of circumstance just like lighter ports and bonded terminals and advised the operators to merge to command enough resources and also look elsewhere for funding outside the government as a lot of public infrastructures are begging for the attention of the government.  

“It requires you BOAN to have muscle; you have to look beyond the government for support. Government has a lot of issues in its hands that are begging for more attention. And if you want to survive, look elsewhere. Operate and grow your business and behave as if anything is coming from the government.

“Barge operation is a child of circumstance. Where will your investment be when the circumstance is removed? Congestion is not caused by cargo but by infrastructural decay. Challenges will come when the congestion (traffic) is over and rail is working,” Sarumi advised.

On the complaint over lack of space for barges to berth in the terminals, Sarumi emphatically said that “terminal operators won’t provide space at their berths for barges unless they are part of the business. Government should create berths, which are not under the control of port concessionaires, for loading and discharging by barge operators.”

 He stressed the need for quality and standards in barges and regulations to prevent accidence, calling on BOAN leaders to ensure that the quality and standards of their barges are not compromised and the regulatory agencies to come up with regulations and take removal shipwrecks seriously.  

Also speaking, the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Transportation Mrs. Magdalene Ajani urged the BOAN members to adhere strictly to the advice of Chief Adebayo Sarumi on merger and consolidation. She informed that the government had held talks with terminal operators to create loading points for barges to pick cargo unhindered.

Dr. Ajani said that the Federal Government had approved the dredging and channelization of Lagos channels to ease movement of vessels and barges and assured the operators of the support of the government to make the industry productive.

Ajani who admitted that the barge operation is not properly regulated said that all government agencies – NIMASA, NPA and National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) were working to ensure proper and coordinated regulated barging operations in the country.

Earlier in his opening remarks, Edeme Kelikume listed funding, shipwrecks and lack of berthing space among the challenges which barge operators face in the discharge of their business. He said that barging is a wholly indigenous operation and the Cabotage Vessels Finance Fund (CVFF) is a veritable funding source from which barge operators should benefit.

“It is our prayers that we will get a certain percentage of the CVFF to build our capacity. It is difficult for us to get funds; bank loans come with a huge interest and this is not profitable for our business. CVFF is a good source of funding for us,” BOAN said.

Kelikume called on the government to remove shipwrecks from the nation’s waterways to ease the movement of cargo and stop accidents. He stressed the need for all regulatory agencies to harmonise their supervisions which come with multiple taxes.

“There is a need for wrecks to be removed. It is our prayer that the Ministry of Transportation evacuates the wrecks and dredges the channels for barges to move unhindered and to eliminate accidence,” said Kelikume, who informed that barge operators in a year move 1 million TEUs containers, over 500,000 tonnes of general cargo and 25,000 vehicles. “This is an industry that has come to stay,” boasted Kelikume.

He appealed to the Federal Government to create berthing space in the ports for barges to lift cargo easily.

Mr. Adeyinka Adetunji, Director, Strategic Support Services, JOF Nigeria Limited, commended the efforts of barge operators in moving cargo and maintained that JOF as an organisation would always support the sector. Mrs. Marian Olapade from Tin Can Island Containers Terminal (TICT) said barging is a welcome development that would make Nigerian maritime to be recognized in the comity of maritime nations.             

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