Dockworkers urge govt to boost eastern ports

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Group laments NIMASA’s failure on biometric card

The Nigerian Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has advised the Federal Government to boost operational activities at eastern ports.

Its President, Shipping branch, Ekpeyong Etim Ekpeyong, told reporters in Lagos that Onne, Warri, Port Harcourt and Calabar ports should be made busy by the government through constant dredging of the channels to pave way for bigger vessels to call at the ports.

Speaking on the advantages of the eastern ports, he said with the government’s support, several jobs would be created in the region.

Besides, Ekpeyong said the resuscitation of the ports would further reduce youth unrest, noting that pirate attacks on ships, kidnapping, unemployment and other social vices would also become a thing of the past.

According to him, the fear of kidnappers and pirates are some of the factors responsible for importers’ low patronage of the eastern ports, hence, the government should rise to the occasion by providing adequate security along the corridors to foster confidence in importers that may want to use the ports.

“The only thing is to make the ports busy, the more busy the ports are, the more activities will increase and when activities increase, there is prospect of more employment. There are no two ways about it because the advantages of those ports working outweigh the disadvantages,” he said, adding that there is also an urgent need to dredge the routes because the shallowness has made big vessels that have depth not to go there except the flat bottom vessels.

Ekpeyong said the government has a responsibility to ensure that the ports are functioning well, because if ports in the East are doing well, Lagos ports would be decongested. For him, granting of tax rebate to importers who use the ports just to encourage them should be considered because between 70 and 80 per cent of importers are from that axis.

He maintained that good roads and railway lines should be constructed to link ports with cities, adding that by so doing, importers in Anambra, for instance, would not come to Lagos to clear their consignments.

In a related development, MWUN said it was regrettable that five years after the expiration of the biometric identity cards for seafarers, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) was yet to renew same for its members.

The union lamented that unregistered workers have been usurping jobs meant for legitimate dockworkers and that the union was no longer comfortable with such practice.

Consequently, MWUN said it might have to address the issue through an operation codenamed “Option B” if the relevant government authority failed to yield to their demand.

NIMASA, under its former Director-General Mr. Temi Omatseye, initiated the dock-workers biometric identity card project.

MWUN President General Adewale Adeyanju, who disclosed this at the Dockworkers Branch Working Committee (BWC) of the union, in Lagos, said dockworkers were peace-loving people who always ensured industrial harmony; but they should not be taken for granted by any group of persons in the industry.

Adeyanju accused some port concessionaires of engaging unregistered dockworkers, warning that the union would be forced to tour some of the culpable facilities to apply “Option B “. He described the engagement of unregistered workers as unprofessional, noting that the union will not hesitate to clampdown on such persons.

“We want NIMASA to renew our biometric identity card because for over four years now, this has not been done. All dockworkers, including seafarers in Nigerian seaports were properly registered and we are appealing to them to renew the biometric card,”he said, adding that the union will further alert security agencies to ensure that the unregistered workers are apprehended.

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