The dream of having a port operation in Onitsha which motivated the construction of a river port in Onitsha several years ago is materializing in this present administration.
After grueling forty-two years in the limbo, the port last weekend made history when it received light cargo barges with containers, which the National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, said was to test run the activities in the port.
The development drew excitement among the residents of the town who are mainly importers and exporters. Their excitements stem from the fact that when the port fully comes on stream, they would not have to travel to Lagos to clear their goods as that would be done in Onitsha.
Work on the Onitsha River Port project was begun during the administration of former President Shehu Shagari in 1983. Since then, it has been lying fallow due mainly to politicization.
Though it was rehabilitated and commissionedby former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2012, there were still no activities.One of the drawbacks was the shallowness of the River Niger, which could notallow for ships to berth at Onitsha.
So, for this past 42 years, Onitsha Port remained a white elephant project until the determination of the present administration to inject life into it. What was witnessed at the commercial town of Onitsha at the weekend was not the berthing of ships, but the arrival of barges which came from Onne Port in Rivers State.
The exercise was supervised by the Managing Director of NIWA, Chief George Moghalu who also received the barges and the containers at the port. Saturday Vanguard gathered that full activities at the port are expected to begin in the first quarter of 2021.
Experts are of the view that for a ship to arrive and berth in Onitsha, there is a need to properly dredge the river from the Atlantic ocean to Onitsha and other inland river ports
Moghalu, who was elated by the berthing of the barges described it as a “milestone that will have a direct impact on the economy of the Southeast geopolitical zone”, as the cost of transportation of goods and services will significantly be reduced.
According to Moghalu, activities at theOnitsha River Port will open avenues for job creation and equally reduce timespent on traffic and the resultant road accidents.
According to the NIWAboss: “The aim of the test run is to break the jinx and encourage partnershipwith the Barge Operators Association and to assure them that it is possible tomove containers from Onne to Onitsha by water successfully and from Onitshaback to Onne.
”This is the first phase of the test run and the second phase will be from Lagos Ports to Onitsha River Port and from Onitsha to Lagos. “NIWA is giving exemplary leadership to all investors that move goods on the waterways, which is economically viable and safe.
So we want investors to key into the programmeto be able to benefit from the potentials of water transportation.
“This is part of my commitment sinceassumption of duty as Managing Director of NIWA. My aim is to ensure that theOnitsha Port becomes fully functional after 42 years of the commencement of itsconstruction and the subsequent commissioning in 2012.,
“The exercise that took place at the Port was part of the preparation for the full official operation of the Onitsha River Port which will commence by the first quarter of 2021.
“There is no doubt that the full operation of the River Port will boost economic activities in Anambra State and South East in general, create jobs and wealth for our teeming youths, reduce the usual bottleneck in clearing goods and save money wasted in transporting containers from different ports in the country to the South East.
It will also decongest our ports in Lagos and reduce the pressure on our roads.” The Area Manager of NIWA, Onitsha River Port Complex, Mrs. Queen Uba, who was elated at the milestone being achieved by the current leadership of the port was optimistic that the full operation of the Onitsha River Port would be achieved, adding that the full operation was being put on hold due to the ongoing process to the concession of the port.
“While we were waiting for the completion of the concession arrangement, the management entered into an agreement with Connect Rail Services Limited to kick start the lifting of goods from the Port to other parts of the county”, Uba said.