By Godwin Oritse
FOR the first time in many years, salt import topped the Nigerian Import Chart with of 13million metric tonnes for March 2019, beating fish imports which topped the chart in the first two months of this year.
The rise in salt import was astronomical coming from only 23metric tonnes in February 2019.
Shipping Position emanating from the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, showed that frozen fish also recorded an increase of more than 50 per cent with 5.9million metric tonnes making it the second largest on the import chart compared to 2.246million metric tonnes for January and February.
Reports indicate that aside from the usage in food preparation, salt is used in tanning, dyeing and bleaching, and the production of pottery, soap and chlorine.
It is also widely used in the chemical industry.
Although some of the salt imports have arrived in the country, the shipping data shows that the bulk of the cargo is expected to arrive by the end of March 2019.
In the bulk of the salt import is coming into the country through the Port Harcourt ports as a total of 5.95million metric tonnes have been slated through the Eastern Ports while only 24, 439metric tons are for the Lagos ports.
For Petroleum products, which came third on the chart, over 339metric tonnes have arrived in the country as in the second week of the year, compared to 281,297metric tonnes imported in February.
On the fourth position amongst the top five is bulk wheat, with 327,780metric tons recorded for March as against 263,553 metric tons in the first two months of the year.
According to the shipping document, bulk sugar took fifth place as it recorded 181, 299 metric tonnes of cargo for March as against 263,552 in January and February.
Other cargoes that made the import list this month include containerized cargoes with over 7,000 units of containers in the first two weeks of the month of March.
Between March 6 and 7, a large number of drilling equipment whose tonnage Vanguard Maritime Report could not ascertain was prominently featured in the shipping position for the month under review.
More berths take vessels
In a related development, the shipping position also showed that berthing activities are beginning to gather momentum as 30 berths out of total 36 is now set to host vessels at the various terminals in the Lagos ports.
Two weeks earlier, there were about 33 empty berths as only three vessels were seen at the berths discharging cargoes, but as at the time of this report, more vessels had berthed with only about eight empty berths awaiting vessels.
Reacting to the issue of fish import, Mr Shola Olalekan of Lagos and Niger Shipping Company, told Vanguard Maritime Report that the polluted waters of the Niger- Delta area may be responsible for the high fish import.
Speaking in similar vein, Chairman of the Port Consultative Council, PCC, Otunba Kunle Folarin, said that the need for the use of imported fuel will continue to rise as long as the local refineries performed below expectation.
He explained that these refineries were more than 50 years old and cannot perform optimally.
He said “The refineries are epileptic, these refineries are more than 50 years old. You cannot expect them to be optimal in their production and they cannot be producing 24 hours and seven days a week.
“From what we know, the need for the use of fuel is rising every day, don’t we have a public transport system that mass-transits people, so everybody has to put their vehicles on the road.
“The rail which could conveniently lift 400 people at a time is not in the corridor of the metropolis.
“If you look at the importation of used vehicles, it is also increasing, so the demand for the use of fuel will basically increase.”
On the issue of fish import Folarin said that the increase in fish import could be attributed to the fact that it is a cheaper source of protein for the masses.
Most of the beef products come from a particular part of the country and transporting these animals have brought about added cost that has impacted on the purchasing power of the people.
“Transport is almost 60 per cent of the cost of goods and services in Nigeria” he stated.”