The Cross River State Governor Senator Professor Benedict Ayade in his inaugural speech unveiled some of his plans for the state in what he termed signature projects.
Prominent among these were the proposed Calabar deep sea port and its evacuation corridor, the Calabar – Ikom – Ogoja – Obudu Super highway.
The citizens and residents of the state expressed great delight on the news of this especially considering that the Calabar port which was commissioned since 1979 has had the challenge of low depth and several attempts by the Federal Government to dredge it have failed over the years.
As if the news of a new sea port was not enough to give us hope for a new dawn in the state, the state governor added the news of the proposed construction of a super highway to serve as an evacuation corridor from the sea port to the part of the state bordering the north of Nigeria. This for us was a greater news considering that the Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja-Obudu road has over the years become a death trap.
The challenge that this road poses has not only been social but also economic as people doing businesses have experienced losses due to accidents, delays and destruction of goods owing to the poor nature of the road. The pronouncement thus by the governor that his administration will construct a superhighway in the state could not have come at a better time than now.
The purpose of this treatise is to show why the proposed Calabar deep sea port with its evacuation corridor, the Calabar Ikom Ogoja Obudu super highway, is the key to economic revolution of Cross River State. The two projects go hand in hand and have the potential to transform the economy of the state upon completion.
As I seek to expantiate on this, let me first explain why Cross River State needs a new sea port when it already has one.
The history of Calabar Port is traceable from the premedieval merchants’ ventures of the 15th century to the present day. It served as an important focus of trade with the outside world in the Eastern states and natural port for the northern states of Nigeria according to information on the website of the Nigerian Ports Authority.
The development, modernization and expansion of the Calabar Port was embarked upon under the 3rd National Development plan 1975 –1980 in order to make the Port facilities cope with the ever increasing demand of the national economy. The new Port Complex was commissioned on 9th June, 1979 and lies 45 nautical miles (about 84km) upstream from Fairway Buoy.
The shallow nature of the water channel of the port has made it impossible for bigger vessels to sail through, thus contributing to the under-utilization of the Calabar Port; reputed to rank among the best in the country. The draft at approach of the Calabar channel is 6.4 meters at high tide and 5.4 meters at low tide. The acceptable draft for small ports is at least nine meters.
Federal Government had in the past made several investments in the dredging of the Calabar port but such efforts had proved abortive with billions of naira sunk. The non-completion of the dredging of the channel to the advertised draft of 9.4 meters is the biggest threat to the development of the port with adverse effect on economic activities in the state. Bad road network into Calabar from the North, South and Eastern part of the country, have also affected business at the Calabar port in particular and the state in general.
With the failure of the Federal Government at various attempts to successfully dredge the Calabar channel over the years, the clear solution to this challenge thus is the development of a new deep sea port in the state and the construction of evacuation corridor out of the state to the Northern Nigeria, Chad and Niger Republic. The Sen. Prof. Benedict Ayade’s administration has decided to take this bull by the horn and even at a time that the state is facing financial challenges.
It was Robert H. Schuller who said “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.” The tough times that our state is facing thus will not last but in order for the state to emerge from this, we must take pragmatic and calculated steps that will help us come out of this challenging circumstance. This in my opinion is what Sen. Ben. Ayade is doing as the proposed projects are sure to lead to economic revolution in the state.
I will like to explain to you why the construction of the Calabar deep sea port and its evacuation corridor, the Calabar Ikom Ogoja Obudu super highway, is the key to this economic revolution of Cross River State.
By virtue of the location of Cross River State; its southern border being washed by the Atlantic Ocean, its north bordering the North Central States in Nigeria, Cross River State is clearly the most strategic state in Nigeria were a deep sea port will serve the entire Northern states in Nigeria and other land locked countries North of Nigeria like Chad and Niger Republic and also help in opening the state for more businesses to thrive.
The significance of a deep sea port in economic development of the state and the country cannot be over emphasized. Deep sea ports play an important role facilitating Nigeria’s external trade. They provide a service to many other industrial sectors and are nodal points of inter-modal logistic chains of key importance for the sustainable growth of transport and the economy. Ports are also important job generators.
A deep sea port is type of port which allows access to very large and heavily loaded ships. Deep water ports are also defined to be any port which has the capability to accommodate a fully laden Panamax ship, which is determined principally by the dimensions of the Panama Canal’s lock chambers.
While standard ports have drafts of average of seven to nine meters, the draft of a deep seaport is in the higher range of ten to eighteen meters and above. The global scramble for deep seaports is linked to the increasing embrace by maritime architects and engineers of very large carriers, which are considered “economical vessels”.
It is common knowledge that the existing ports in Nigeria, especially Apapa and Tin Can Ports in the Lagos axis, are overstretched with the attendant inordinate delays in cargo handling and processing. With capacity for 60 million metric tonnes of cargo handling, the ports run at 100 million metric tonnes. This is expected to increase.
The construction of the Calabar Deep Sea Port will thus increase the volume of vessel traffic and cargo coming through Cross River State, decongest Lagos and Onne ports and reduce cost of doing business for Calabar-based businesses who spend additional transport cost to take delivery of their consignments in Lagos and Onne ports.
Some companies that depend on the port for their business activities in Cross River State include General Electric, Tinapa Business Resort, Calabar Free Trade Zone, ECM Terminals Ltd, Intel Services and Cocoa Industries, Flour mills, Dangote Group etc.
Also with the ongoing expansion of Unicem Cement Company and other cement factories coming into the state, the port is expected to serve as export port for manufactured products from the state.
Having established the fact of the strategic location of Cross River Satte and the proximity of the state to the northern states of Nigeria and countries bordering the north of Nigeria, it is clear that it makes more business sense for the businesses located in that zone to use the Calabar Deep Sea Port. This justifies the need for the second project; the evacuation corridor which is the Calabar Ikom Ogoja Obudu Superhighway.
Evacuation is a very important aspect of port planning and development. Other than the Calabar Ikom Ogoja Obudu Superhighway, there may also be need for Calabar Odukpani Itu highway as a second evacuation corridor but this takes a lesser precedence as some of the eastern states are already served by the Onne port. There is also need to plan for rail lines linking Calabar to major cities in the northern and eastern Nigeria.
The location which has been chosen for the development of the new deep sea port is a natural deep port and thus is not expected to face the challenge of regular dredging faced by the existing port. The deep Sea Port has natural features that will make it the preferred port for many vessels. The new deep sea port is planned to be located in Akpabuyo Local government Area of Cross River State.
Clearly, the proposed deep sea port and the evacuation corridor, the Calabar Ikom Ogoja Obudu Superhighway has the potential for the industrialization of Cross River State, creation of jobs for our teeming youth and economic revolution of the state.
Research has shown that the world over, deep seaports engender economic development and the case will not be different in Cross River State especially with the strategic location of the state. Let us all join hands then to ensure the success of the projects and enjoy the benefits that will come from it.
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