Key players in the maritime industry have charged the Cross River State Government to assume a cardinal role in the ongoing efforts aimed at repositioning the Calabar Port as a major non oil exports hub in Nigeria.
According to the stakeholders, Governor Ben Ayade need to explore his political sagacity at the centre to prevail on the federal government to urgently address the basic factors militating against the optimum utilization of the port especially dregging, poor access road and high tariff regime.
The experts made their views known at a stakeholders forum organised by the Nigerian Export Promotion Council on Positioning Calabar Port As Major Non Oil Export Hub In Nigeria, Challenges and Way Forward held in Calabar.
In a welcome address, the Trade Promotion Advisor, Nigerian Export Promotion Council NEPC, Calabar Area Office Mr Damian Ossa said the fora was meant to enable relevant players in the sector deliberate and explore viable options to surmount the peculiar challenges in a bid to boost economic activities at the Port
He posited that the Nigerian Export Promotion Council NEPC is set to collaborate with the state government and exporters to harness the vast export potentials of the state while maximising the strategic geographical location of the state..
” Cross River is one of the few states in Nigeria with access to International market through land, sea and air, NEPC is poised for effective synergy with the state government to exploit this huge comparative advantage in accelerating non oil exports” he enthused.
In a keynote address, the South South coordinator of NEPC, Mr Joe Ita said the agency opted to bring key actors together in the export value chain to promote cohesion and team work approach vital to positioning the Calabar Port in readiness for the take off of the African Continental Free Trade Area Bilateral Agreement.
In his remark, the Calabar Port Manager Mr Fetus Olunati said the Port has undergone remarkable reforms and upgrading of facilities for optimum service delivery in tandem with global acceptable practice.
He charged the state government to initiate deliberate efforts geared towards attracting activities to the Port in view of the huge economic benefits accruable to the state from a booming Sea Port.
Speaking, the Deputy Commandant, Akwa Ibom and Cross River State Command of the Nigerian Custom, Mr B. Ehinzer said the agency is disposed to complimenting collective campaigns to overhaul businesses at the Calabar Port.
In his presentation entitled Comparative Analysis of Calabar Port and Other Port in Nigeria, Realities, Challenges and the Way Forward, the Chief Executive Officer, Institute of Export Operation and Management Limited, Mr Ofon Udofia called for improved security along the Calabar channel as well as a thirty percent rebate across board in charges demanded at Easter Ports by the Nigerian Port Authority in order to attract businesses stressing that it will be difficult to divert traffic from Lagos Ports as long as the charges are higher than what is obtainable in Lagos Ports.
Mr Udofia solicited for drastic reforms in the Nigerian Custom to transform the agency from a mere revenue generating outfit to global trade facilitator in a bid to encourage local participation in exportation.
Meanwhile, the Commissioner for Commerce in Cross River State Barrister Rosemary Archibong has expressed delight over the contract awarded by the federal government for the dualization of the Calabar Itu Road.
Mrs Archibong who spoke while declaring the event open noted that the road when completed will contribute meaningfully to be quest to optimize the Calabar Port.