The Federal Government of Nigeria has flagged off pilot barge operations at the Onitsha River Port, forty-two years after the inland port became inactive. The Onitsha River Port was built in 1983 during the administration of President Shehu Shagari, but remained lying fallow until 2012 when it was physically renovated and “commissioned” by President Goodluck Jonathan. But the port had remained unutilised and dormant since. The Pilot Barge Operations of the Onitsha River Port was flagged off by the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, Dr George Muoghalu at the port in Onitsha, Anambra State.
It is a pilot operations scale and would accommodate barges to and from the port. According to testimonies from a few importers, Onitsha has been used as a final destination for cargoes from abroad since April this year. Onne remains the port of berth for ships but barges ferry containers through the Onitsha River to the Onitsha River Port.
Ship operations will commence when the rivers are properly dredged.
Last month, Mrs Queen Uba, the Manager of the Onitsha Area Office of NIWA, had disclosed that full operations at the port will commence before the end of the first quarter of 2021 (March 2021).
She said that NIWA has been making a lot of efforts toward full operation of a port in the South East since Dr George Muoghalu assumed office. She disclosed that the commencement of operation of Onitsha River Port was being put on hold due to the ongoing concessioning process.
“NIWA has put in place all necessary things for effective operation of the port and we are just waiting for the completion of the concession process. “While we are waiting for the completion of the concession process, the management has entered into agreement with Connect Rail Services Limited to kick start the lifting of goods from the port to other places in the country.”
According to the Onistha River Port Manager, Mr Baba Spencer, while speaking to press last month, the port was ready for use with all the facilities needed to operate effectively in place. “While the concession is ongoing, the Connect Rail Services Limited has been contracted to use the port stacking yard as a bonded terminal to kick-start the functionalities of the port operation on temporary basis until the concession is fully concluded.”
“When the port commences full operation, it would reduce the cost of moving goods and human from Onitsha to other parts of the country.
“The full operation of the port would promote and increase commercial activities and attract more investors into the state.
“Onitsha River port was built under the administration of President Shehu Shagari in 1983 and since then, it has been lying fallow and completely underutilized until 2012 when it was rehabilitated and commissioned by former President Goodluck Jonathan.”