The dredging of the Escravos channel in Delta State by the Buhari administration is already halfway done. The goal of the dredging is to enable the port in the state to have a better draft, and record fewer incidences of vessels running aground when completed.
Escravos River is however, a tributary of the River Niger in southern Nigeria. Its 56-kilometre westerly course traverses zones of mangrove swamps and coastal sand ridges before entering the Bight of Benin of the Gulf of Guinea.
There are no ports on the river, but the Escravos is linked by a maze of interconnected waterways to the Forcados, Warri, Benin, and Ethiope rivers.
By 1960, although the natural passageway over the Escravos Bar at the ocean exit was only 12 feet (4 m) deep, the river had already supplanted the Forcados as the main approach to the Delta ports: Warri, Burutu, Sapele, Koko, and Forcados.
Since the completion in 1964 of the Escravos Bar Project, the Escravos has provided the only route for oceangoing vessels to those ports. There is also a petroleum-shipping station serving a submarine oil field 11 miles (18 km) offshore from the mouth.
Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko, has confirmed the extent of work done on the project.
Earlier when the NPA chief and his team to visited the Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse III, at his Palace, in Warri, the commercial hub of Delta, he said, “we all know that the breakwaters collapsed about 10 years ago, and there has been high siltation resulting in a reduction of the draft from 7 meters to 3 meters in some places.”
The Ports Authority has also started the mapping and charting of the Escravos channel starting from the fairway buoy down to Koko Port.
The essence, according to Bello-Koko, ‘’is to enable us to be able to know the draft along the way and also ensure that the navigational aids are properly placed. This is because there are some decisions that can only be taken after knowing that the channel has been properly mapped and surveyed.”
Adding, he said, “we have a special interest in ensuring that Warri and other ports are more active. This is why we have been holding stakeholders’ meetings and we are going to Port Harcourt for another one.
‘’This enables us to engage with the importers and exporters for them to know that these ports are available for use. We will deploy more marine equipment and ensure that the signals are also working to ensure safe navigation of vessels.”
The Itsekiri monarch has been saying that the opening of the ports will yield positive results for the benefit of the importing community as well as drive the economy of neighboring cities.