The importance of Delta ports to Nigeria’s development

The Delta Ports are a quadruplet of seaports sited along the Niger Delta coastline in the port towns of Warri, Sapele, Koko and Burutu, all in Delta State and in their named order of sizes. The ports belong to second generation Nigerian ports, coming after the Lagos Port Complex and the Port Harcourt Port. They were created as national emergencies to handle the excessive post-war reconstruction cargo that the Lagos Port could not absorb in the aftermath of the Nigerian Civil War which spanned 1967 to 1970. Prior to the war, the Old Warri Port was owned and operated by Holts Transport, a British colonial shipping firm while Burutu Port was owned and operated by the United African Company of Nigeria (UACN). All four ports were subsequently rehabilitated to the standard of national ports under the management and control of Nigerian Ports Authority in the 1970s.

From that modest beginning of serving national exigency purposes of the post-war era, the Delta Ports accomplished tremendous economic feat for Nigeria during the oil-boom years, which saw the ports handling captive cargo destined for the southeast and the south-south regions. Equipment for oil exploration, oil production and oil servicing used by international oil companies (IOCs) dominated the ports’ traffic for the most parts of the 1970s up to the 1990s before the rival Onne Port in Rivers State competed away the traffic. This period also saw to the ports’ improvements and upgrading in different measures.

Delta Ports remain unique with enormous capacity yearning for development. First, because of their strategic location in the heart of Nigeria’s oil and gas mineral deposits and their proximity to the Atlantic, they are adjudged as the port of the future, which would fit snugly in the country’s agenda of oil and gas industry deregulation as they would serve as the hub of modular oil refineries and marine transportation of petroleum products to neighbouring countries and beyond. Besides this, the ports are strategically located to serve as logistics bases for the export of gas by the Escravos Gas-To-Liquid (EGTL) facilities that are about to commence production with a capacity next to non in sub-Saharan Africa – converting more than 325 million cubic feet of natural gas per day to GTL (gas-to-liquid) diesel and GTL-naphtha. By the time the ETGL project is actualised, Delta Ports and their host towns and surroundings are certain to become new economic growth poles that will attract investors, professionals and artisans seeking opportunities to harness. Trade and commerce are certain to follow such huge enterprise in the region as a natural consequence. In terms of hinterland accessibility, Delta Ports provide about the shortest routes for cargo haulage to catchment states of Anambra, Imo, Enugu, Delta, Edo, Kogi, Ondo, and Benue, when compared with other operational ports. The ports proximity to these states is an aid to freight logistics and distribution planning. The east-west road’s arterial connection through primary and secondary lateral roadsto the named states engenders quickturn-around time for trucks to and fro the ports.

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