*Lament encroachment of channel by fishermen
Lagos — The Escravos Ship Pilots Nigeria Limited, ESPNL, the umbrella outfit of a group of local marine pilots in the Warri Pilotage District in Delta State, has said that it can no longer continue to receive its payments in Naira and has demanded payment instead in US Dollar.
The group has also lamented alleged encroachment of navigable Escravos channel by fisherman and other persons claiming that their activities constitute safety hazards for navigation.
In a letter to the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, dated October 8, 2020, the group said that it piloted vessels safely from Escravos Bar to the four ports under the Delta Pilot District, namely, the Warri, Koko, Sapele and Burutu ports, adding that a monthly Reconciliation Committee with the NPA on all harbour’s Master Declaration and pilot sheets be set with a view to determining their dues for payment.
In the letter the Managing Director of the ESPNL, Johnbull Demebi, said that the group can no longer continue to receive its payment in Naira when their services and transactions are Dollar denominated.
Demebi also said that if the dangerous trend of not having buoys along the Escravos Channel could lead to stoppage of shipping operations in the district.
Part of the letter reads: ‘‘The second aspect of our appeal relates to the dangerous impediments currently hindering smooth operations in and around the Escravos Break Water.
‘‘At present, there are no buoy anywhere around the place and this is dangerous to our assignment as it is a navigational mark that aids our operations by showing or giving advance notice to pilots of reefs and/or other hazards along the navigable channels.
‘‘Without a buoy our job is made more hazardous and we have to rely on our experience at all time which is not infallible as the existence of a buoy along the channel would have been better.
‘‘Another challenge has to do with the current shallow nature of the channel, the channel has become so shallow that only a very urgent dredging of same can guarantee the prevention of avoidable incidents of vessels running aground in the channel.
‘‘We ply this route all the time and we have, on different occasions, expressed our difficult experience in navigation caused by the shallowness of this area of the channel and shall continue to do so by officially bringing this complaint to your knowledge in the belief that urgent steps will be taken to open up the channel and avert any imminent disaster from occurring.
‘‘Thirdly, we wish to report the incessant of illegal encroachment of the Navigable Channel by fishermen and other persons who do not have any lawful authority or license to make use of the Federal Navigable Water Way.
‘‘Their activities constitute serious hardship to us while piloting vessels to and fro the Warri Pilotage District.
‘‘Their activities ranges from illegal depositing of empty drums, fishing nets and all sorts of junks along the channel while claiming a right to fish in the waterway.’’
Demebi suggested the constitution of a joint investigation visitation team comprising of NPA, law enforcement agents and members of the Escravos Ship Pilots Nigeria Limited, to visit the affected area of the channel for an on the spot assessment of the negative action of the encroachers.’’
Reacting to this letter by the group, Captain Charlie Tobi told Vanguard Maritime Report that up until later part of last year, their payment were made based on the unofficial exchange rate of N150,000 to the Dollar.
Tobi also said that a monthly reconciliation of their operation with NPA will resolve the current issues between both parties.