The Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) is determined to make the ports more efficient to enable them compete with those of neighbouring countries, its Executive Secretary, Mr Hassan Bello, has said.
He told The Nation that operators and other stakeholders should collaborate with the government to make the ports attractive, competitive and to be the sub-region’s preferred cargo destination.
The collaboration, he said, is necessary to drive the reform in the sector to attract more cargoes. According to him, NSC is working with the government and private operators to create a level-playing field for all.
“The council is looking for an equilibrium that is needed in port operation, and that is why we interact with the operators regularly.
“The port system is a representation of various interests and everybody has a target. That is why there is need for a neutral observer that will bring everybody together.
“That is what the Nigerian Shippers’ Council is doing to cement the relationship so that synergy will be brought to bear on the positive contribution of shipping to the economy.
“The more cargo we have, the more it translates to economic growth; the more it translates to employment; building of new infrastructure and making transportation the driver of the nation’s economy,” he said.
Bello said the complaints by port users, shippers and shipping companies vary, adding that the complaints were to right certain wrongs. Some complaints, he said, are monetary, some on lack of equipment and short-landing of goods.
The council, Bello said, has been persuasive with its regulatory power to eradicate the challenges hindering port operations and make the ports the preferred cargo destination. He said genuine automation of port operations would increase efficiency and decrease waste.
The effect of these, according to him, would be making the ports attractive with increased cargoes, which in turn, would enhance government revenue.
Bello said there would be more employment and the ports would then become the preferred destination for importers.
“If it is five days in port A and it is one day in port B, I will rather go to port B because it is the economy of scale that determines which port is used. We have made it possible for us to make that comparison within the sub-consciousness of the national discourse on the economy.
“It is important for our ports to be efficient and our ports are picking up now. Corruption is what we have been talking about and there are many ways to kill corruption and one of them is automation because the moment you have automation, corruption will just disappear. With the introduction of electronic payment platform, what took place in six days then, will now take place in six seconds.
“Some of the delays have been eliminated by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the agency is also trying to introduce other electronic system of doing things, the same thing with Customs,” he said.
The NSC boss urged the government to address the challenges confronting the port system with good policies.
Investors, he said, needed certainty and ease of doing business in Nigeria, which could be brought about by the government intervention, especially in the gridlock at Apapa.
According to him, no matter how efficient a terminal is, if there is no road to evacuate cargoes, it will be difficult. So, there must be some level of intervention.
“The ideas are to have an electronic passage to ensure that a truck is only in Apapa when it is needed to pick or drop cargo. Then, we don’t need trailers to go to tank farms because we have the pipeline, which is also a means of transportation.
“The moment we have these pipelines pumping to Mosimi and other flow stations, then we don’t need tankers in Apapa.
“We cannot rely only on access road, ports should be accessible by road, rail, inland water ways and pipelines because the port is not a storage place for cargo at all,” he said.
Bello also said the NSC is also establishing Truck Transit Parks along major highways in the country to help address the challenge of trucks parking along major roads in the country, adding that the project is Public Private Partnership (PPP) aimed at reducing incidences of road congestion and loss of cargoes due to indiscriminate parking by truck drivers.
The executive secretary explained that the council, in partnership with states, would build modern parks with hotels, restaurants, filling stations and garages for repair and maintenance of vehicles.
According to him, the facility will also have weigh measures not only for trucks, but also small cars travelling at night can stop over there and stay because there will be security. This will provide revenue for the state government because there will be employment for people and other small businesses can spring up also.
“We have secured a land from Kogi State Government along Abuja road; Enugu State Government has also given us land in Obolo Afor and other state governments have indicated interest in the project,” he said.