By Richards Adeniyi
Contrary to the widely held believes that maritime activities in Rivers State have been crippled by piracy in the region, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has revealed that the port is now safer even as it has witnessed more activities in recent times.
The Port Manager of Port Harcourt Port Complex, Abubakar Garba Umar, made this declaration when the Executive Council of the Energy & Maritime Reporters (EMR) corps paid him a sensitization visit recently.
He said this while he was responding to an address by the interim chairman of the EMR, Mr. Martins Giadom.
Umar received the EMR team with Ezinne Mgbeudo Asinobi (Principal Manager, Corporate & Strategic Communications), and Captain Femi Oyewole (Harbour Master) as well as other principal officers that manage the Port Harcourt Port Complex.
Umar who assumed office as Port Manager in 2016, seized the opportunity to explain how he has been able to handle the mandate to restore the ports in Rivers State to full viability.
The port manager said complaints before he came were that the ports were unsafe and full of danger and that nothing much was happening at the port.
Umar revealed that upon resumption, his team embarked on sensitization drive to importers in the region on the need to route their goods through the Port Harcourt port.
“We created awareness on the viability of the Rivers port and we allayed their fears about insecurity and other matters” he said.
Noting that the stakeholders bought the idea, he added; ”Now, the Port Harcourt port is busy and viable. Most of our berths are now occupied. Containers now come because two shipping lines now come to Port Harcourt and one more is about to join”
“Road congestion, which was a fact of the Harbour Road, is no more so. This is because we took proactive measures to keep that in check. We now insist that our road be free. We say, do not use port road for parking”
Umar said insecurity was a big source of fear in the past, but that it is not anymore. “From 2017, Rivers ports operate on Step 1 security grade, not step 2 anymore.”
Responding to issues raised by the EMR leadership, Umar said the appeal for timely information to the media was a welcome development. He reminded journalists that there are listed bodies that have right by international regulations to have a presence in ports around the world.
He however said access to the ports for information to newsmen would not suffer. “Update of information is important and you have already observed that we are steadily reaching out to the media. We believe that regular update is key.”
He said the NPA in Port Harcourt was prepared to partner with the EMR to further take the message of the authority further; “We will work with the media to achieve better information dissemination. We can only request you to always clarify information before use.”
Earlier in his address, the chairman of EMR, Martins Giadom of Rivers State Broadcasting Corporation, called for openness and free flow of information, saying the feats so far recorded by the port manager were noted by the group. “This visit affords us the opportunity to explore areas of mutual benefits in the pursuit of a better port system in Rivers State and other facilities of the NPA in the state which would help transform the ports to become economically viable, business-friendly and responsive to global best practices.”