Row over concession of old Warri Port

Warri Port

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Warri Port

By Pita Ochai

The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) recently incurred the wrath of Vice President Namadi Sambo, who doubles as Chairman of the National Council of Privatisation (NCP), for publishing a misleading advertorial on the planned concession of Terminal B of the old Warri Port at the Delta Port Complex in Delta State.

On June 24, 2014, the BPE had published an advertisement in some newspapers calling for expression of interests as concessionaire of the old Warri Terminal. The advertorial had claimed that the terminal consisted of seven warehouses; approximately 20 derelict buildings including transit sheds and staff quarters; and “other buildings and lands within the area known as Old Port including a canteen, workshops, a gear store, a labour office and the cargo materials in the area.” But representatives of prospective concessionaires who visited the facility after the publication were stunned to find that no such facility existed at the terminal.

Investigation after the advertorial reveal that there are no such warehouses or buildings on the facility as claimed in the BPE advertorial.  According to a staff of the Delta Port Complex who pleaded for anonymity, “the problem is that BPE did not do its due diligence. Those warehouses and buildings were actually there before but they were demolished almost seven years ago. What BPE did was to simply rely on the information given to them by the Nigerian Ports Authority since 2005 without going back to check if the information is still relevant or correct.”

The BPE advertorial had read: “The National Council on Privatisation (NCP) through its Secretariat, the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) has the mandate for the implementation of public enterprises reform and restructuring under the Public Enterprises (Privatisation and Commerciailisation) Act of 1998. In line with the reform of the Port sector, the Federal Government through the NCP and the BPE hereby invites prospective Concessionaires to express interest in the concession of Terminal “B” Warri Old Port.

“Terminal “B” Warri Old Port: This is a multipurpose terminal which consists of a 150m berth (Berth 1) and a 320m long quay (Berkin 2 and 3) set at right angles to Berth 1 with appropriate quay hardware; this berth comprises about half of the total waterfront available for use and development by the concessionaires; seven warehouses; approximately 20 derelict buildings including transit sheds and staff quarters; and other buildings and lands within the area known as Old Port including a canteen, workshops, a gear store, a labour office and the cargo materials in the area. Successful concessionaires, who must be experienced local/international operators, will be required to manage and operate the Terminal for a minimum period of 25 years with the option of renewal.”

“Part of the advertorial stated that: they will also be required to invest in the construction of the Slacking Area, Administrative block, Warehouse and Clinic, rehabitation of existing facilities and undertake further developments in the terminal.

“To achieve the concession, the Federal Government through the NCP/BPE hereby invites bidders to express interest to be a Nigerian company or a joint venture with a foreign partnership.  Such prospective concessionaires should present verifiable evidence of successful investment and technical competence in maritime operations, with proven ability to operate a port terminal.”

Applicants for the concession, according to BPE, were required to have a minimum of $150 million tangible net worth with a minimum of 15 years experience in the “efficient operations of a multipurpose Port Terminal with recorded improvement of cargo turn-around time.”

Some of the applicants were said to have sent a petition to Vice President Sambo, Chairman of NCP, and the supervisory body of BPE. Based on the petition, Sambo was said to have issued a query to the BPE and asked for cancellation of the bid process, but rather than cancel the process and start all over, the BPE was said to have issued a press release announcing its extension.

“The National Council on Privatisation has approved the extension of the closing date for the submission of expressions of interest by prospective investors in the concession of Terminal “B” Warri Old Port,” a statement issued by BPE’s Head of Public Communication, Chigbo Anichebe, in Abuja read.

However, a representative of one of the prospective concessionaires said BPE’s action was not acceptable “because it does not address the issue.” He said the initial advertorial must be withdrawn and a fresh one “stating the true condition of the terminal” be published.

The Warri Old Port terminal was originally concessioned to Intels which operated it under the name of Associated Maritime Services (AMS) Limited. About three years ago, the quay wall of the terminal collapsed prompting the NPA to move AMS to Terminal ‘A’ New Warri Port pending rehabilitation of the collapsed quay.

On March 14, 2012; the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved a memo by the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar for the rehabilitation of the Old Port in the sum of N7.02 billion. The rehabilitation contract was awarded to Messrs China Harbour Engineering Company Limited with a completion period of nine months. But after the completion of the rehabilitation, Intels refused to return to the terminal preferring to remain at the Terminal ‘A’ Warri New Port and also bid, under a different name, for its original terminal to enable it acquire both.

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