The Federal Government is to deploy six locomotives and 100 wagons before the end of December, 2017 as part measure to boost rail transportation nationwide.
Speaking at the 2017 World Maritime Day, organised by the ministry of Transport in Lagos on Monday, the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi said: “With effective rail transportation of goods from the ports to the hinterland, less pressure will be on the roads and goods will get to destinations more secured and at less costs.’’
The minister also disclosed that the Federal Government has contracted an Israeli firm to provide maritime security and and trainNigeria’s security personnel.
According to Amaechi, the Federal Government engaged the firm for a three year period to adequately train Nigerian personnel on the security of the sector, after which it would hand over the operation to Nigerians. The project is expected to gulp $195million.
Amaechi said that the theme of the celebration, “Connecting Ships, Ports and people’’, was aimed at building on the World Maritime Day theme of 2016 on “shipping: Indispensable to the World’’.
According to him, the theme is focusing on helping International Maritime Organisation (IMO) member states to develop and implement maritime strategies to invest in a joined-up inter agency approach that addresses the whole range of issues.
“This includes the facilitation of maritime transport, increasing efficiency, navigational safety, protection of the marine environment and maritime security.”
Explaining further on developments in the sector, the minister said: “We have mandated a consulting firm to do a study of the maritime sector and they will round off in nine months. They have already done between three and four months, and we are expecting them to submit an interim report on their findings.
“One of the burning issues in the maritime sector is security. The Federal Government has contracted an Israeli firm, which is going to train our security men. They will buy equipment and dominate Nigeria’s waterways for the next three years.
“Within the three years, the Israeli firm will train our security operatives for them to take over after the expiration of the contract. They are yet to launch because they are still buying the equipment. When you see the equipment on the waterways, people will know they are safe and secure.”
Quoting a personnel of one of the shipping firm, the Minister explained that shipping firms were paying as much as $18m annually to those escorting their vessels from one point to another on Nigeria’s waterways, adding that from the middle of next year, such escort services would cease as the Israelis had promised that there would be no more harassment of firms on the nation’s waterways.
On railways, he said:“We will insist that everybody must put their cargoes on the train. By December, we are bringing in about 100 wagons. We are launching six locomotives before December. Initially, General Electric said they would pick the cargoes from the ports to Ebute-Meta, but I told them that such movement of cargoes to Ebute-Meta would not work.
“By next week, I will inform General Electric that all cargoes will be moved from the ports straight to Papalanto in Ogun State. This will start before the end of December. We are doing that with the Nigerian Ports Authority and the Nigerian Railway Corporation.”
The minister added: “More efficient shipping will be achieved through working in partnership with the port stakeholders while government provides the enabling environment, thus efficient shipping will be a major driver toward global stability in sea transport and sustainable development for the good of the people.
“Only agencies which were part of the presidential approval in 2017 that are permitted to domicile within the ports, all other agencies must come in only when they are required.
“Therefore, there is the need for all maritime agencies to synergise to improve efficiency in our ports,’’ the minister said.
He expressed regret that some of the challenges inherent in the country’s inland waterways and ports operations, had affected efforts at diversifying the economy.
He added that the Federal Government approved an Executive Order on Ports Operations to improve efficiency at the facilities.
He said with regard to diversification of the economy, the Federal Government had recorded some level of success on the concessioning of Onitsha River Port while others like Lokoja, Baro and Oguta River Ports were on the Buhari administration’s priority list.