More than 90 per cent of cocoa exported from Calabar port are brought in from south Cameroon, the Shippers Association of Cross Rivers State, SACRS, has said.
In an exclusive interview with Vanguard Maritime Report, the association also bemoans lack of availability of cocoa seeds for export.
President of SACRS, Micheal Ogodo, said that there has been a lull in the cultivation of the produce which has been the main export from the state.
Ogodo also warned that the recent call of vessels at the port may not last long if there are no cargoes to sustain the return trip from Calabar port.
The container vessel, M.V Boreas, managed by Marguisa Shipping Line, recently berthed at the ECM Terminals. The General Manager, ECM Terminal, Diran Akorede, said the berthing of the container vessel was the crowning moment of the several marketing efforts to attract a liner service to Calabar over the years.
He acknowledged the partnership they have enjoyed with NPA, especially the commitment of the Managing Director of NPA, Ms Hadiza Bala-Usman, who he noted from inception of her tenure, has given priority attention to resolving some of the key challenges that have bedeviled the port.
He also emphasised the need for her to ensure the completion of the dredging.
Akorede stated: "In October last year, we had a preliminary discussion with Marguisa Shipping Line representative on possibility of commencing vessel calls to Calabar. To make the call viable to Marguisa, we made several concessions on rates and co-opted other stakeholders into the efforts followed with road shows to sensitise potential clients. The maiden call of the vessel was the outcome of such efforts spearheaded by Ecomarine in conjunction with Marguisa."
He said that in preparation for receipt of container vessel, the terminal had invested massively on container handling equipment from inception of the concession most of which have been idle ever since.
He added: "We are ISO certified and have well-documented processes to ensure transparency and efficiency in our service delivery. Our systems are fully automated and the facility is fully ISPS compliant. We also have paved stacking area that has remained unutilised over the years.
"For us, we have been prepared from the inception and, therefore, handled the discharge operations in the best professional manner. As a port, our pact with Marguisa is to provide and ensure efficient service delivery, quick turnaround for their vessel and incentive scheme to support their voyage profitability. For us, the pact remains as long as the vessel continues to call our terminal."
According to him, ECM Terminal is ready to receive more container vessels with its ultra-modern cargo handling equipment.
He said the Calabar Port has been plagued by the challenge of low draught due to dredging of the channel. The ECM manager, therefore, urged NPA to urgently complete the dredging of the channel to the advertised draught of 9.4m to ease the difficulty in attracting container vessel to the terminal.
He also enjoined the ports authority to introduce a more effective incentive scheme such as the 30 per cent rebate hitherto in place before the concession.
To further facilitate patronage and easy evacuation of cargoes, he said the government should ensure quick completion of the road contract from Odukpani Junction through Ikot Ekpene to Aba, already awarded to Julius Berger.